Research: Digital Transformation of Metros

The Digital Transformation of Metros study reviewed the strategies, initiatives, and technologies used by metros to implement digital transformation for four key purposes: safety improvement, station operations and management, train operations, and depot management. In recent years there have been several digital trends observed in metros, including provision of real-time train loading information, centralised station management, customer-facing staff equipped with tablets, installation of passenger counting equipment, etc. Metros’ long-term digital transformation plans typically involve multi-phase programmes with strong support from management, employee expertise, and partnership with external parties. Ultimately, digital transformation is highly related to transforming employees. Therefore the study summarised metros’ good practices to create a digital culture, as well as ways to remove barriers along the journey to digital transformation.

Source: Community of Metros

Research: Best Practices in Operating UTO Lines

In 2016, fifteen CoMET and Nova metros have experience in planning or operating automated lines. This study identified good practices in operating fully automated metro lines, known as Unattended Train Operation (UTO) lines. The majority of UTO lines are GoA4 and this trend is projected to continue, with a sharp increase in UTO lines planned for the next 10 years. Given this rapid adoption of UTO, this study was selected by CoMET and Nova members to identify how best to prepare for and eventually operate driverless trains.

The study identified a number of metros good and emerging practices for operating UTO lines from preparation stages to operation. Testing periods for UTO lines, for example, are carried out at three different levels: testing of components, of systems and of whole lines. Following this period, metros may assign on-board staff for fast response to potential service instabilities and passenger assistance. Ultimately for GoA4 lines, incidents are dealt with remotely, managed in practice by the OCCs. This requires a shift in practice from frontline to remote problem-solving. Also, the study determined that whilst UTO lines are generally more reliable, incident management can become a bigger challenge than with conventional lines.

Research: Station Management and Mobile Technology

Modern technology offers significant opportunities to improve station operations and the customer experience. At the same time this new technology is changing the nature of communications between staff and passengers.

This study found six key trends in terms of station staff organisation and management across the Community of Metros:

  1. There is significant opportunity for many CoMET and Nova metros to rapidly and relatively cheaply improve customer information and assistance using remote and mobile technology.
  2. Remote monitoring of safety-critical systems (i.e. watching an escalator on CCTV) is currently preferred to remotely controlling the system (i.e. turning an escalator on or off), even when that capability exists.
  3. Some metros are beginning to use mobile applications to support staff operations, such as allowing staff to monitor and control CCTV, make public address announcements, or look up asset information from electronic manuals.
  4. The application of mobile devices in station asset management currently focuses around inspections rather than more direct forms of asset control.
  5. Metros are not creating overarching policies for the deployment of mobile technology, but instead choosing to focus on the end objective of improving customer experience and business productivity with whatever technology facilitates the task.
  6. There is significant variation across the group in terms of hardware, software and practical use of devices.

We also identified five key trends in terms of station staff organisation and management across the Community of Metros:

  1. Supported by electronic ticketing and self-service technology, ticketing staff roles are evolving to focus on broader customer assistance and increased visibility around stations.
  2. There is increasing use of multi-functional staff across the Community of Metros, as well as an increase in their capabilities and responsibilities.
  3. Metros are deploying increasing numbers of roaming staff, across a range of station operations.
  4. Metros are dividing their network into a higher number of station control zones that each contain fewer stations, with benefits for local knowledge, staff camaraderie and teamwork.
  5. Metros increasingly have one staff member per group performing a single coordinating role, responsible for both customer services and assets across a small group of stations.

Meetings: Nova Annual Meeting 2015, Barcelona

In April 2015, members of the Nova group met in Barcelona for their annual meeting. The group were also joined by CoMET members, Metro de Madrid. The meeting provided an opportunity for members to hear the results of this year’s research. In addition, each member gave a brief update on the current issues in their metro and any changes over the last six months, with opportunity to discuss and ask the advice of peers on relevant topics.

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The hosts, Barcelona TMB arranged fascinating technical visits. The group were honoured to visit the security canine facility and watch a demonstration of the security dogs working. There was also an opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’ of the new automated line 9. This included an opportunity to meet and ask questions to the multifunctional staff who work on that automated line.

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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.

Metro News: Improving service through automation in Paris

The automation of Line 1, the Paris Métro’s oldest and most popular line, with 725,000 passengers per day, has been achieved without any major interruption to service. This technological change has become necessary to deal with the steady increase in passenger traffic.

With the automation, Line 1’s passengers will benefit from a more responsive and regular transport service, ensuring greater safety and comfort. One of the main benefits of automation is the line’s ability to react instantly to an increase in passengers and provide the number of trains required for the optimum operation of the line.

The automation is expected to improve commercial speed by 4% and because fewer trains will be needed for the same headway, will achieve 6% rolling stock savings. The system also has the potential to reduce minimum headway by 20%. Not having a driver’s cab will also increase passenger capacity by 6%, even without any headway improvements.

The installation of platform screen doors on all the lines’ platforms contributes significantly to the smooth running of the line, avoiding interruptions associated with track intrusions, while also enhancing passenger safety. The migration process combined both automatic and manually driven trains on the same line, with all trains automated since January 2013. It is a world first given the importance of the line.

The project to automate line 1, launched in 2004, is part of the huge modernisation programme that RATP will be undertaking over the next twenty years. The project will allow the company to meet growing demand and to satisfy its customers’ expectations in terms of safety, comfort, regularity, flexibility and information, at a time when RATP is seeking ways of anticipating and/or remedying network saturation.

New rolling stock and control centre on Line 1
New rolling stock and control centre on Line 1

Research: Train Driver Productivity

A Nova research study on train driver productivity aimed to identify the most important factors that influence driver efficiency, understand what methods operators have successfully used to modernise restrictions to working arrangements and identify the scope for metros to modify the most important constraints, rules and parameters that have a negative effect on both driver productivity and costs.

The study found that metros need to have sufficiently flexible labour rules to achieve higher levels of driver productivity. Correlating the level of working time flexibility with driver productivity showed that less restricted metros were more productive than metros that face stricter constraints. Organisations with part time drivers and / or the ability to utilise split shifts were associated with higher levels of driver productivity and increased effectiveness of driver time at work (better able to cover ‘peaks and troughs’ in service). Moreover, it was found that variable shift lengths were arguably more effective than split shifts for metros with a flatter service profile, allowing metro managers to adjust shift schedules as necessary and to avoid the build up (unproductive time) of staff during less busy and off peak periods. In the long term, savings from increased flexibility could more than offset the higher driver wages associated with greater flexibility. Increasing automation of train services through automatic train turnaround, remote booking-on for drivers and driverless trains can positively influence driver productivity and allow driver roles to be deployed more effectively through more customer facing roles.

It is hoped that the information contained within this study can be used to support negotiations with labour unions, government and other key stakeholders by showing evidence of how “imposed” restrictions may impact an organisation’s ability to improve and manage productivity.