Community of Metros News: 2016 Safety Culture Expert Workshop in Sunderland, UK

In June 2016 the Community of Metros held an expert workshop on safety culture. The workshop was hosted by Nexus (owner of the Tyne and Wear Metro system) and held jointly with sister benchmarking group ISBeRG, the International Suburban Rail Benchmarking Group. Safety experts from 17 organisations – 5 CoMET metros, 7 Nova metros, and 5 ISBeRG railways – attended.

The workshop was held at a unique venue – the Stadium of Light, home to Sunderland A.F.C. and near the metro station of the same name and was recorded in the local press. The workshop was sponsored by the Nova group in conjunction with its 2016 benchmarking research study on Improving Safety Culture and followed a similar ISBeRG study in 2014. Both studies aimed to better understand safety culture and identify how metros and railways have established and improved safety culture.

Over the course of the two-day workshop experts shared experiences, exchanged good practices, and discussed the results of the benchmarking studies. There were also focus sessions on three key topics: responding to and recovering from major incidents, taking a ‘brain-based approach’ to safety, and considering the safety culture of passengers. Finally, the workshop also included two external perspectives: the regulatory view of Safety Culture from the UK Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and the trade union view of safety culture from the UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

Research: Best Practices in Operating Very High Frequency Metro Services

Increasing service frequency is identified as the primary shorter-term strategy to increase capacity. Maximising frequency on existing lines makes the best use of the expensive metro infrastructure. This study identified best practices in operating very high frequency metro services exploring the means and methods used to achieve high frequency service.

Several CoMET and Nova metros operate one or more very high frequency line (30 trains per hour or more) and many have plans to increase service frequencies. Although almost all metros reported a desire to operate higher frequencies, a wide range of constraints impedes them. Constraints were grouped into five categories with corresponding best practice shown below:

Examples of how metros have dealt with these constraints include:

  • Signalling and Train Control: adopting moving block signalling and Automatic Train Operation.
  • Station and Train Crowding: preventing door re-opening and restrict overcrowding (for example by holding passengers in interchange corridors) to optimise throughput.
  • Terminal Turnaround: enabling multiple trains to turn around simultaneously and clear trains of passengers faster.
  • Service Complexity: introducing separate tracks at intermediate terminals so that terminating trains do not block the following through trains.
  • Fleet: improving availability, compensating through different service patterns.

Community of Metros News: CoMET 2016 Management Meeting in Hong Kong

In March 2016 members of the Community of Metros came together for the CoMET 2016 Management Meeting in Hong Kong, hosted by Hong Kong MTR. The meeting was attended by representatives from 13 metro systems across the world. Members were welcomed by MTR CEO Lincoln Leung as the host of the meeting.

Throughout the week, attendees toured Hong Kong MTR’s facilities, including the new Wong Chuk Hang Depot for the new fully automated South Island Line Depot opening in late 2016 and the new HKU Station on the western extension of the Island Line, which opened at the end of 2014. During meeting sessions each metro shared their latest updates, including information about current challenges. Meeting attendees also discussed and selected benchmarking research topics for the coming year.

The Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) from Imperial College London also presented updates and results of recent benchmarking research. This included key performance indicator benchmarking, recent research on fares and regulation, and results of a recent study entitled ‘Practical Interventions to Improve Trains Service Reliability’.

Research: Management of Electronics Maintenance

Maintaining the electronics that support rolling stock fleets entails both repairing technology and managing obsolescence issues.  Metros’ strategy choices for electronics maintenance and repair include using in-house resources, outsourced, or a mix of both approaches. The study provided an overview of the key drivers and emerging issues related to electronics maintenance strategy. A balanced analysis considering costs of establishing and maintaining in-house staff and facilities, as well as the danger of over-reliance on outsourcing and losing the ability to remain an ‘Intelligent Customer’ should be taken into account.

A key role played by in-house teams is in the acquisition of spare parts, as obsolescence or supplier choices and finances lead to shrinking stock. Several approaches were discovered, from contractual agreements to a continuity of supply of spares, the use of alternative components and reverse engineering of parts.

As the lifecycles of electronics components are generally considerably shorter than the expected life of a train and its key subsystems, spares and supply management are essential to support the continued availability of electronics components. Regardless of the approach taken to ensuring sufficient supply of spares, developing strong relationships with key suppliers as well as leverage to maintain a strategic position appear to be a major success factor in managing electronics maintenance.

RTSC presents big data research to President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Imperial College London on the 21st October. As a result of a collaboration between the RTSC, Shanghai Metro, and the Data Science Institute (DSI) of Imperial, the Presidential visit included a presentation on the analysis of smartcard data for the Shanghai Metro network.


Our main research objective was to improve our understanding of demand patterns captured in smartcard data. We visualised passenger flows entering and exiting Shanghai metro stations using the extraordinary visualisation capabilities of the KPMG Data Observatory of DSI. The Data Observatory is the largest of its kind in Europe, featuring an enveloping circular wall of 64 monitors powered by 32 computers facilitating 313 degrees of surround vision.

In the second part of the presentation we visualised a simulation scenario for a hypothetical train service disruption. This allowed us to predict how temporary demand shocks would spread through other parts of the network. Studying disruption scenarios enables operators to prepare for unexpected events and improve the resilience of urban rail networks.

The Presidential visit proved to be an excellent opportunity to showcase the RTSC’s recently developed competences in big data analysis, and the potential of smart card data in cutting edge public transport research.

CoMET and Nova News: CoMET 2015 Annual Meeting in Madrid

In November 2015, members of the Community of Metros came together for the CoMET 2015 Annual Meeting in Madrid, hosted by Metro de Madrid. The meeting was attended by representatives from 21 metro systems across the world, the most ever for a CoMET meeting. The meeting was opened by members of the Metro de Madrid executive committee as well as officials from the Madrid Region government.

Representatives from 21 world metro systems at the CoMET 2015 Annual Meeting in Madrid
Representatives from 21 world metro systems at the CoMET 2015 Annual Meeting in Madrid

Throughout the week, attendees toured Metro de Madrid facilities, including the intermodal stations at Moncloa and Vodafone Sol and the Centre for Operational Maintenance and Monitoring of Installations and Telecommunications (COMMIT). During meeting sessions each metro shared their latest updates, including information about strategies to improve efficiency and productivity. The Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) from Imperial College London also presented the results of recent benchmarking research and metro representatives discussed them. The recent benchmarking studies on the agenda were on Best Practices in Operating Very High Frequency Metro Services, the Management of Electronics Maintenance, Multi-Functional Staff, and Customer-Focused Train Design.

Plaza de España Station on Line 3 in Madrid.
Plaza de Espana Station on Line 3 in Madrid

The meeting also included the 6th annual CoMET CEO/COO Day, where senior managers from the metros gathered to discuss Key Performance Indicators as well as topics of key strategic importance, such as managing reinvestment and using multi-functional staff. Finally, after the main meeting there was the first ever CoMET and Nova European Regional Meeting, with representatives from eight European metro systems discussing topics of mutual interest, joined also by the CoMET metros of North America.

Research: Multifunctional Staff

Nova members have identified a need to innovate to increase staff productivity levels, and asked RTSC to investigate how metros around the world have used multifunctional staff. A wide variety of multifunctional roles were identified, classified into six broad types as shown below.

multifuncitonal roles

The best multifunctional staff roles fill in what would otherwise be unproductive time, with productive activity. This is often accomplished by matching functions that need to be done at separate times of day or functions that can be slotted in between other activities in a single location, such as light maintenance within stations.

Multifunctional working also has an important role at increasing staff satisfaction. By combining tasks, staff have the opportunity to work in a more varied and interesting role. This can improve the attractiveness of the metro as an employer and improve staff motivation. For example, one metro recorded reduced absenteeism among their most multifunctional staff. Multifunctional roles can also create a career progression – especially for staff who are technically excellent but do not necessarily want to manage other people.

RTSC shares expertise with senior public officials from India

RTSC was honoured in October 2015 to host a study visit from a delegation of senior officials responsible for metro and urban transport development in India. Participating officials represented the Ministry of Urban Development, the Department of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Nagpur Metro Rail Corporation Ltd., and the World Bank.


The visit incorporated a benchmarking workshop, looking at how benchmarking could benefit the new and rapidly-developing metros of India. The visit also included seminars disseminating RTSC’s 20 years of expertise on topics including metro financial sustainability, innovative funding and financing mechanisms, and best practice in regulation of metro operations. In addition, the delegates had the opportunity to see visualisations of RTSC analysis of passenger movements in the Shanghai Metro at Imperial College’s newly-opened Data Science Institute.


The delegation visited Manchester Metrolink, London Underground, and Crossrail – and had the opportunity to discuss these different transport systems and projects in detail with current and former staff, learning from the operator’s experience of what works well in setting up successful urban rail operations.

Research: Understanding and Using Service Performance Data

Service performance measurements are crucial for understanding how metro services are running, so obtaining and leveraging accurate data in the form of useful metrics is key to improving performance. This research project aimed to understand what metrics metros are using to manage their service performance, including their precise definitions, and what methods they use to obtain the required data.

Five categories of service performance measurements help to answer the most important management questions about service performance. A comprehensive system of KPIs needs to comprise a balanced set of service performance measurements covering all five categories.

What do metro managers need to know?
What do metro managers need to know?

There is a need to measure both the actual delay to train service and the impacts of train delays on customers. Too much emphasis on the measurement of train service production and train service performance can be at the expense of other elements of service quality and the actual customer experience. One achievable approach is to use headway-based measurements, which reflect the waiting time for customers on platforms. Another is to weight delay measurements by the number of customers on the train at the time.

There is a clear trend towards more customer-focused measures, which are more difficult to measure but better reflect the actual customer experience. This trend is being driven primarily by technology, such as modern signalling/train control systems and smartcards (i.e. tap-in / tap-out systems). These new data sources are making it easier for metros to collect the data required for more customer-focused metrics.

Trends in service performance data collection, management and analysis
Trends in service performance data collection, management and analysis

Community of Metros News: Shenzhen Metro Joins

Shenzhen Metro has joined the Community of Metros as part of the Nova consortium. Shenzhen Metro (SZMC) operates Lines 1, 2, 3 and 5 in Shenzhen, which comprises 158km and 107 stations. Line 4 is operated separately by MTR, but is from a customer perspective part of the same metro system. The total system (including Line 4) is already carrying an estimated 600-700m annual passenger journeys.

The system first opened in 2004, and expanded dramatically by over 100km in 2011 (before Shenzhen hosted the 2011 Summer Universiade). The network has been stable since 2011, but there are several new lines under construction, with multiple new lines to open in 2016.

Shenzen Metro Map

Shenzhen is a city of about 10 million in the south of Guangdong Province, adjacent to Hong Kong and less than 100 miles southeast of Guangzhou. Shenzhen Metro is a key part of what may be the most metro-connected megalopolis in the world – it directly links in two places to Hong Kong’s East Rail Line (the first time two Community of Metros members in different cities interchange!), and there are plans in the not-so-distant future to also connect Shenzhen Metro to the Dongguan Metro, which itself will connect to the Guangzhou Metro at its other end.

Shenzhen Metro is already working on plans to attend the next Nova meeting, which will be hosted by the Docklands Light Railway in London in September 2015.