Business objectives of the RailTopoModel


The exchange of infrastructure data both internally across an organization and externally between organizations is a daily-basis task in the railway sector. A number of specialized formats have been created for both rail and non-rail focused purposes. The design of each format primarily attempted to address only the specific requirements inherently relating to that given discipline. Since the iron network and its elements are similar in every country, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

The RailTopoModel is a logical model to standardise the representation of railway infrastructure-related data. Together with railML®, which defines the schema for the exchange of data, it has revolutionized the transfer of data. This has helped the railway sector to become a competitive market with the fast and efficient exchange of data between companies, with their industrial suppliers, or with railway regulators and other authorities.


Investing in a standardised railway data exchange format has provided multiple benefits for the sector, including improved data quality, more efficient business performance, streamlined and re-usable development, integrated IT systems, and return on investments. Since then the RailTopoModel has: 

  • Cut duplication of efforts and encourage more collaboration,
  • Prevent laboured and repetitive developments of IT
  • Reduce lengthy IT project development phases,
  • Enable innovation, and
  • Improve compatibility by reducing overlap and redundancy issues.


The RailTopoModel is the backbone which defines how objects data should be modelled and described, aggregated, stored and visualised. Since the  implemention, it has been able to:

  • Connect, locate and visualise the topological relationship of the iron network and the assets located along it;
  • Support multiple referencing systems including linear referencing (mileposts and mileage), Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS; like Galileo, Glonass; GPS) and schematic coordinates,
  • Describe the characteristics of the network, its components and events, according to various attributes at multiple scales: from the micro view of the tracks up to macro view of lines and corridors;
  • Support evolutions related to generic or specific business needs.

Use cases

The use cases of RailTopoModel covers different aspects of the railway sector including asset management, signalling systems, timetables and capacity planning. The model is utilised in the collection and maintenance of Register of Infrastructure (RINF) in France and the National Railway Entity (NRE) reporting in Austria. In Germany the standardised data format is tested in on-board positioning system and infrastructure recording. The track attributes including infrastructure and speed restrictions are received as input to the Driver Advisory System (DAS) in the UK. In Switzerland the Infrastructure Managers (IM) Resource Planning System provides data to the passenger information system in a standardized exchange format. In addition, the IM’s Asset Management System transfer information on topology, various asset types and maintenance railway vehicles to Maintenance Planning System. In Belgium the model is applied in the development of ETCS. The added value of standardized data has been found in the capacity planning process in Norway.