QLD Rail deploys business intelligence system

QR (formerly Queensland Rail) has already saved around $250,000 by installing a Web-based spatial management system to streamline how it audits its 10,700-kilometre rail network, land holdings and associated assets.

In 1995, QR became a government-owned corporate entity and was required to overhaul its manual business processes through which it audited and administered its railway property, a QR property division spokesperson told Computerworld.

"We had to abide by new reporting and auditing standards, going from technically cumbersome, manual ways of managing corporate compliance issues like tenure contracts, lease changes and Native Title, to an electronic system," the spokesperson said.

QR deals with a range of State Government agencies and regulatory bodies -- the QLD Department of Natural Resources, QLD Transport, the QLD Department of Public Works and the Environmental Protection Agency -- exchanging information on property descriptions and property valuations and ownership on a daily basis. This also compelled QR to migrate to an electronic data management system.

In July 1998, it began to replace its longstanding database system -- Platypus, made by US software company GDS -- with a $350,000 total business intelligence solution by Sydney-based developer of location-based solutions Map Info, a QR senior technical spokesperson said.

By using various products from the Map Info range like EasiMaps and MapX, QR developed the organisation's existing spatial land management system, PLUS (Property Land Use System), progressing from simple mapping to more sophisticated data management and strategic planning.

From late last year to August, QR enhanced PLUS with Map Info's Map Extreme, a Web-based database engine and Map Info Encounter, to build Web-based pages for the system and create a Web-deployed mapping environment.

Such add-ons to PLUS (now called PLUSnet as it is Internet-enabled) gave 14,000 users within QR access to resources and data sets from different business divisions, such as freight management and disaster recovery. whereas before they could not tap into information from other departments, the spokesperson said.

For instance, employees needing to know the total number of stations between Townsville and Cairns can now access this information immediately. "If we did not have this product we would still have pockets of isolated information. We would not be able to see the big picture or relationships between our resources," the spokesperson said.

Since going live with the Web-based components of PLUSnet in August, QR has saved around $250,000, compared to the $350,000 total outlay on the solution, according to the spokesperson.

Users have also increased their productivity levels by days; it now only takes a few seconds to perform data-set searches, retrieve property information from external suppliers' databases and validate land and map information. Property division employees have also reduced time spent in the field as the system links users with aerial and video photography taken on site visits, the spokesperson said.

The solution has also reduced infrastructure management risks in that it can identify operational faults such as broken fibre-optic cables, power, water and gas outages, as well as flag emergency situations at different locations for ambulance and fire services within seconds.

QR has on-sold the in-house-developed PLUS system to other large corporate users including the New Zealand Rail Corporation and a large Victorian energy supplier, company representatives said.

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