CoMET and Nova News: CoMET Annual Meeting in Beijing

In November 2014, members of the Community of Metros along with Asian members of Nova came together for the CoMET 2014 Annual Meeting in Beijing by the Beijing Subway. This meeting marked the 20th anniversary of CoMET, and was the largest meeting in CoMET’s history with attendees from 17 metros around the world. The meeting was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Beijing and the Permanent Secretary of the Chinese Ministry of Transport.

CoMET 2014 Annual Meeting Beijing Group Photo Small
Representatives from 17 world metros at the CoMET 2014 Annual Meeting in Beijing.

Throughout the week, attendees got to tour Beijing Subway’s facilities and observe operations, including visits to the Beijing Subway Rolling Stock Equipment Company, the Songjiazhuan Station (interchange for Lines 5 and 10 and the Yizhuang Line), the Operations Control Centre, and a ride on Line 10, which at 57km is the world’s longest metro loop line (and completely underground).

2014 Beijing Subway Map SMALL
Following several years of massive growth, the Beijing Subway is now one of the largest in the world.

During meeting sessions each metro shared their latest updates, including information about recent major incidents. Imperial College London also presented the results of recent research on Station Management and Mobile Technology and Understanding and Using Service Performance Data as well as the results of the first ever international metro customer satisfaction survey that was conducted in 2014. The meeting also included the 5th annual CoMET CEO/COO Day, where presidents and directors from the metros gathered to discuss metro Key Performance Indicators as well as topics of key strategic and tactical importance.

After the main meeting there was a CoMET and Nova Asian Regional Meeting attended by 9 of the 10 Asian members of CoMET and Nova. Representatives from the metros of Kunming and Chongqing also attended as observers and potential members of the new third sub-group of CoMET for new and growing metros. The Regional Meeting focused on key topics for Asian metros, including cost recovery, rapid growth, and rescuing efficiency.


Research: Planning for Major Events

Public transport is essential to the success and feasibility of major events, and most major cities with metros are likely to host at least one large-scale event over a 15-year horizon. A 2014 Nova case study captured members’ experience with hosting a wide range of events and covered the entire timeline of hosting a major event, as illustrated below.

Metro Timeline for Hosting a Major Event – from upfront activities to lessons learned
Metro Timeline for Hosting a Major Event – from upfront activities to lessons learned

The study found that early and active involvement in major event planning – which can include major capital projects – is very beneficial for metros, as is conducting their own demand forecasting. The long lead-time for most major events also allows for metros to learn from each other and visit metros hosting the same or similar events. Despite the short-term nature of most major events, metros gain the most value from retaining longer-term improvements, whether transformational or incremental.

The study demonstrated that while major events can present challenges to metros, many metros are using them successfully as opportunities to showcase their existing good practices, experiment with new ones, identify needs, and leverage funding.

Research: Investigating the Cost Efficiency of Metros

Transport bodies across the world often use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); this work goes beyond standard KPI comparisons to consider causality for differences in cost efficiency. Using the rich data set gathered from the international Community of Metros, investigates why metro cost performance varies so significantly between different cities. The research showcases a successful partnership between RTSC researchers at Imperial College and practitioners at London Underground (LU). The resulting academic insights are being used to inform LU’s £10 billion efficiency programme.

Using regression analysis and panel data, for both the network and line level, we reviewed the main cost drivers of operating costs and its subcategories, including service operations, maintenance in various categories, and administration. For each subcategory we estimated expected costs for each metro given the metro’s conditions and compared them with the metro’s actual costs. This enabled us to benchmark each metro with “itself,” as if it behaved like the average CoMET and Nova metro. We also quantified the relative impact of each cost driver on metro costs.

Overview of the constituents of metro operating cost modelled by this study
Overview of the constituents of metro operating cost modelled by this study

The analysis revealed important factors that affect metro costs within and outside operator control, which conventional benchmarking can mask. For example, rolling stock maintenance costs were observed to increase by 2-3% with a 10% increase in fleet age. The effects of unit prices in labour and energy were quantified, offering a detailed understanding of the cost structure of various transport operators. Historically, LU unit costs have appeared higher than peers; this work helps LU understand why.

This research gives the transport provider (in this case London Underground) invaluable guidance as to how best to target performance improvement initiatives and optimise available funding to generate maximum value, given scarce resources and high demand for services. LU is using this research to validate their plans, and to determine whether efficiency targets are sufficiently stretching. For any public body operating in a political context, negotiating and working with stakeholders can be challenging. The research facilitates better communications with government and other stakeholders – for example by allowing the reasons for decisions to be communicated.

CoMET and Nova News: Delhi Metro Hosts Nova Management Meeting

In September 2014, members of the Nova metro benchmarking group met in Delhi for their yearly management meeting, hosted by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. This was the first meeting for new members Oslo Sporveien, who presented an extended introduction to their metro. Excitingly, the meeting was also attended by the metros of Bangalore and Chennai, who were invited to attend as observers with a view to joining a new benchmarking group for new and rapidly-growing metros.

Meeting attendees agreed the work programme for the next year, as well as hearing reports on the previous year’s research including key performance indicator benchmarking, and the international metro customer satisfaction survey. In addition, attendees visited the metro and its operational centres to learn more about Delhi Metro’s operations in detail. The visit to the training school and simulator building was a particular highlight – here Delhi Metro is training staff not only for their own rapid expansion, but also for other new metros throughout India.

Nova members view simulators at Delhi Metro's training centre
Nova members view simulators at Delhi Metro’s training centre

As a result of its rapid growth, Delhi Metro will be moving in 2015 to the CoMET benchmarking group for the world’s largest metros. This was therefore a valuable opportunity for Nova members to see Delhi’s metro in action. RTSC and the members of Nova thank Delhi DMRC for their efforts in organising an interesting and productive meeting.

Expert Workshop: Energy Saving Strategies

Experts from 19 urban railways met to discuss energy saving strategies at a workshop hosted by TMB Barcelona. Fifteen CoMET and Nova metros and four suburban railway operators were represented at the workshop, which built on the CoMET 2012 ‘Energy Saving Strategies’ research project.
Over two days, attendees investigated the measures taken by metros to improve energy efficiency and the factors affecting metro energy consumption; and sought to share good practice in management and procurement of energy.
The workshop brought together energy experts from metros and railways, in a confidential environment to allow experts to share new ideas and take away evidence of successful practices and lessons learnt elsewhere. The workshop also helps build a network of peer contacts to enable ongoing collaboration between energy experts.
In addition to brief energy introduction presentations from each participating operator, the workshop included detailed discussion of traction energy, non-traction energy, energy supply & monitoring, and carbon emissions; a presentation on the SEAM4US European research project, and technical visits to see Barcelona TMB’s high voltage substation.

CoMET and Nova News: Oslo Metro Joins Nova

The Nova group of metros is pleased to welcome Sporveien as its newest member. A company 100% owned by the city of Oslo, Sporveien operates the metro (T-Banen) as well as trams and buses in the city.

With 115 three-car rolling stock units operated singly or in pairs across its 86km of track and 97 stations, Oslo Metro transported 85million passengers in 2013. 410 maintenance employees keep the metro and the tram in good condition, resulting in 99.8% regularity, and customer satisfaction of 96.0%.

With a vision to “make public transportation a natural first choice,” Sporveien will benefit from the collective expertise of the Community of Metros, and the Nova group in particular, to research ideas and good practices to realise this vision. In particular, Sporveien’s strategic aim to “at all times deliver the correct degree of quality to our products and services” will benefit from insight via the Key Performance Indicator system to identify appropriate levels of performance to achieve this goal.

With collaboration named as a key value in Sporveien’s roadmap towards future success, it is certain that both Sporveien and the Community of Metros will benefit from this new partnership.

Oslo T-bane Route Map

Research: Communicating with Passengers

Passenger communications have undergone a revolution in the last decade, with more channels allowing passengers and the metro to pass information to one another, and amongst themselves as illustrated in the figure below. A CoMET 2013 case study explored the rapidly changing face of metro-passenger communications, and highlighted how technological developments are altering the nature of the relationship between metros and their passengers.

Passenger communications channels now - many and varied
Passenger communications channels now – many and varied, with bi-directional information flow

The study identified successful methods for delivering non-travel information, increasing passenger engagement and identifying opportunities for the future. Selected good practices were identified based on the best examples within CoMET of:

  • influencing passenger behaviour (including the use of the British Government’s MINDSPACE principles)
  • creating website journey planners and
  • responding to comments and questions on social media.

The work demonstrated how best practice metros are taking advantage of burgeoning opportunities to open up their operations and organisations, communicating with passengers  more widely and building better relationships than ever before.

CoMET and Nova News: Nova Management Meeting in Toronto

In May 2014, Nova members from 16 cities around the world were hosted by Toronto TTC for the Annual Meeting of Nova metros. Each metro provided updates on their latest news and developments.

Nova members are shown around a Toronto TTC depot facility

Members visited three active construction sites, including a completed tunnel, along the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE): Downsview Park (Sheppard West), Finch West, and Highway 407. They also carried out a tour of TTC’s multimodal system, with a focus on integration and transfers between modes.

Toronto's Sheppard Yonge interchange
Toronto’s Sheppard-Yonge interchange station served by the Sheppard Line (shown above) and the Yonge-University-Spadina Line. 

Results and best practices were presented from the three research projects carried out in the last six months, on the topics of:

  • Understanding Revenue and Demand
  • Impact of New Lines, Extensions and Major Projects on the Existing Metro
  • Planning and Execution of Major Events

Results were also presented for CoMET studies on Communication with Passengers, Dwell Time Management and Human Operational Support for Unnattended Train Operation Lines. Discussion followed each of the studies.

The Nova Chair for the next phase will be Joakin Granados from Barcelona TMB.

CoMET and Nova News: CoMET Management Meeting in Mexico City

Mexico City’s Mayor addresses CoMET members in an official reception at the City Hall

Representatives of 15 of the world’s largest metros met this week in Mexico City to share good practice and agree on future directions for cooperative research. The meeting included a technical visit of Mexico City Metro’s facilities, including the control centre, the surveillance centre, and examples of rubber-tyred and steel-wheeled lines.

Imperial College London presented updates on latest research, including key performance indicators with a special focus on the host metro. Members were updated on research topics including dwell time management, unattended train operations, and the impacts of major projects on the existing metro.

The CoMET group also welcomed Singapore SMRT as a new member. SMRT has been a member of the Nova group for small and medium-size metros for many years, and with 690 million passenger journeys in 2012, has now grown to a size comparable with CoMET metros. Their move to CoMET will enable them to continue their valuable contributions to metro benchmarking.

Research: Unattended Train Operation

RTSC’s recent research into unattended train operations (UTO) has investigated the role of human operational support on UTO lines. In doing so, a key finding relates to the use of attendants or train captains – metro staff members who are based in the passenger car, rather than in a separate driver’s cab. Formal definitions of Grades of Automation as in IEC-62290 assume that if a staff member is onboard, they are fulfilling a necessary role, in operating the train, as in London’s Docklands Light Railway where attendants close the doors. The assumption is therefore that lines capable of being operated unattended (Grade of Automation 4) are operated unattended. This research study has found that in fact some metros with GoA4 lines actually use attendants on all trains for other reasons, for example to provide customer service. This has led RTSC to describe this type of line as ‘Attended GoA4,’ reflecting the fact that it fits the specification for a GoA4 line as described in IEC-62290, but is not being operated unattended. The diagram below illustrates how ‘Attended GoA4’ automation fits in with the grades of automation.

Adapted from IEC-62290 for the purposes of demonstrating differences in the real-world operational application of the formal Grades of Automation (GoA1-4) defined in the standard.
Adapted from IEC-62290 for the purposes of demonstrating differences in the real-world operational application of the formal Grades of Automation (GoA1-4) defined in the standard.

The case study explored in more detail the actual staffing levels used or planned on participating metros’ automatic lines. The total number of operational staff was compared with the number of assets (stations and trains) in service, providing metros with a useful benchmarking metric that normalised for differences in line length and service level. A typology of staffing models was also developed and linked with associated staffing levels. This work on staffing was complemented by investigation into the technologies required to enable automation; their costs; and metros experiences with their reliability.

This research was presented as a poster at the 94th Transportation Research Board of the National Academies Annual Meeting in Washington DC, in 2015.