Research: Planning for the Life Cycles of Metro Infrastructure

The study looked at the analysis, tools and models that CoMET and Nova metros use in support of planning for the life cycle of infrastructure assets of track, civil infrastructure and power assets. The impact of funding on the ability of metros to plan for the whole life of the infrastructure assets was explored together with the maturity of metros’ strategies and plans for these assets.

Maturity in strategies for infrastructure asset management is categorised as patch and mend strategies, state of good repair strategies, strategies based on reliability, cost and risk, and optimisation strategies. On the basis of all the elements (i.e. funding predictability, strategies and plans developed and implemented, analysis undertaken for maintenance and investment and sophistication of tools or models in support of decisions), the study developed a maturity map for CoMET and Nova metros.

Most mature metros in planning for the life cycle of infrastructure assets show a holistic strategy, integrating maintenance and investment and using optimisation techniques. This strategy is generally established for the long term with shorter term plans developed at a level below the asset class.

Community of Metros News: CoMET 2016 Annual Meeting in Singapore

In November 2016 members of the Community of Metros came together for the CoMET 2016 Annual Meeting in Singapore, hosted by Singapore SMRT. The meeting was attended by representatives from 18 metros – all 16 CoMET members and two Nova members from the Southeast Asia region.

Throughout the week, attendees toured SMRT facilities, including the Kim Chuan Depot, which is the world’s largest underground depot and home to the fully automated Circle Line. During meeting sessions each metro shared their latest updates, including specific recent initiatives aiming to improve customer satisfaction or service quality.

The Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) from Imperial College London presented the results of recent benchmarking research. The latest key performance indicator results were focused on meeting host Singapore SMRT and also included new items looking in more detail at the benchmarking of reliability and asset performance. Other recent benchmarking research that was presented and discussed included the 2016 results of the international metro customer satisfaction survey and the updated safety performance indicators. The recent benchmarking studies on the agenda were on Driver Training and Cybersecurity.

The meeting concluded with the 7th annual CoMET CEO/COO Day, where senior managers from the metros gathered to discuss metro performance and managing network expansion, addressing cybersecurity risks, and carrying out asset renewals.

Research: Safety Culture

Safety still remains a challenge despite sizeable investments in making the equipment and hardware safer for metros. The most significant barrier to enabling a continuous improvement in safety is to understand and alter the safety culture of the organisation. A model for the improvement of an organisation’s safety culture was developed through the study.

A reasonable level of safety may be achieved through adherence to external regulations, robust processes, good training schemes and an organisational structure which devotes senior management attention safety, defining an organisation ‘practicing safety’. However, a culture which constantly prioritises safety and is aware of the implications of every action it takes is hard to build and maintain.

To fully become an organisation that is always ‘thinking safety’, three key linked behaviours are required, including (1) excellent measuring and monitoring of safety performance, which, in turn, enables (2) the transparent enforcement of standards in a fashion which balances safety and individual accountability, feeding into (3) a robust procedure to investigate and learn from errors.

Continual effort is required to improve in all areas of the safety culture model. The creation of trust is key to enabling a good safety culture, alongside a balance between enforcement of standards and practices and accountability of actions.

Community of Metros News: Nova 2016 Meeting in Lisbon

In September 2016 members of the Nova metro benchmarking group met in Lisbon, hosted by Metropolitano de Lisboa. The extended four-day meeting was attended by representatives from 17 metros. This was the first meeting for the new member Vancouver SkyTrain, who presented an extended introduction to their metro. Berlin BVG metro was also invited as a European CoMET member and presented an extended update of their metro. All other Nova members also had the opportunity to share their latest updates and challenges.

During the meeting benchmarking research results from the past year were presented and discussed. This included the latest key performance indicator results, updates on recent CoMET and Nova research on fares, results of the 2016 international metro customer satisfaction survey, and results of several benchmarking studies. The recent studies on the agenda were Management of Electronic Maintenance, Planning for the Life Cycles of Metro Infrastructure Assets, Safety Culture, and Best Practices in Operating Very High Frequency Metro Services. Meeting attendees also discussed and agreed the work programme for the next year.

In addition, attendees used the metro to travel between the hotel near Saldanha and the meeting venue at Alto dos Moinhos station. The group also visited the Pontinha Depot and Workshop as well as the metro’s Operation Control Centre (OCC). As part of the meeting’s social activities attendees also got to travel on a famous historic tram and visit the Carris Museum.

Community of Metros News: Vancouver SkyTrain Joins

Vancouver SkyTrain has joined the Community of Metros as part of the Nova consortium as of September 2016. SkyTrain is the oldest and one of the longest fully-automated driverless metro systems in the world. Vancouver is the largest city in western Canada and the centre of the Lower Mainland region in the province of British Columbia, which comprises a total of 2.6 million inhabitants.

The SkyTrain network consists of three medium-capacity metro lines totalling 79km with 53 stations. The Expo and Millennium Lines are directly operated by member BCRTC (the British Columbia Rapid Transit Company, a subsidiary of regional transport authority TransLink), while the Canada Line is operated by private-sector contractor ProTrans BC through a PPP arrangement. The total system transports nearly 120m annual boardings as part of a integrated multimodal public transport network that include a large bus network, the West Coast Express commuter rail line, and the SeaBus ferry service.

The system first opened in 1985 for the World Exposition (Expo86) with the Expo Line from downtown Vancouver to New Westminster. The line was expanded in the late 1980s and early 1990s across the Fraser River to Surrey. The Millennium Line was the second line opened in 2002, forming a loop with the Expo Line. The 19km, 16-station Canada Line was built in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics using a PPP arrangement. It opened in 2009 and links the city centre with the airport and major satellite city (Richmond) along what had been one of the city’s busiest bus corridors.

At the start of December 2016 the 11km Evergreen Extension to the Millennium Line will open in the northeast part of the Vancouver area. In advance of this opening in October 2016 Expo and Millennium Line services will be reconfigured, reducing the overlapping section to downtown Vancouver.

The SkyTrain network is fully accessible, with step-free access to all stations and trains. The Expo and Millennium Lines use Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit technology, which uses linear induction motors and delivers fast and very frequent service with relatively smaller, lower-capacity trains. The same technology is also used by Nova member Kuala Lumpur RapidKL on the Kelana Jaya Line. The Canada Line uses conventional AC motor technology with larger cars operating two-car trains.

Future plans for the SkyTrain network include adding capacity with additional rolling stock and potential extensions as well as managing ageing infrastructure that is now more than 30 years old. One such extension project is the Millennium Line Broadway Extension, which would add 6km and 6 stations underground and link the Millennium Line to the Canada Line along what is currently one of the busiest bus corridors in North America.

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.

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.