Research: Cybersecurity

The study defined in broad terms what cybersecurity means to CoMET and Nova metros from an industry perspective. Operational Technology (OT) was prioritised above Information Technology (IT) since the latter is not metro-specific and is more advanced, whereas metro OT systems’ rapid evolution has not been matched by suppliers or regulators.

A metro’s Cybersecurity Risk Profile combines three categories: background threats, connectivity and automation. The study found that high background threats are associated with the most active mitigation measures against cyberattacks, but metros with a high level of connectivity will feature a large risk profile even in a benign political environment. Automation increases the potential impact of cyber-attacks as both physical and non-physical actions may be carried out by a successful hacker.

Ultimately, the study findings concluded that metros, as a key public-facing industry, need to prioritise a cultural shift that places cybersecurity at the forefront of their concerns, similarly to how safety cultures have become established over time.

Research: Driver Training

Training drivers and maintaining their skills and knowledge are significant efforts for almost all metros. Metros need to implement adequate selective recruitment processes to find suitable candidates to become drivers.

The core of initial driver training programmes amongst metros is largely similar, averaging at 100 working days. Programme length depends on a number of factors, including external vs internal recruitment, training facilities, and metros’ expectation towards the role of drivers. The content of training courses used by metros was explored by the study as well.

Duration of Initial Driver Training by Teaching Structure

Apart from the driver initial training, the study also reviewed the frequency of the recurring driver training. By comparing the duration of the driver training to the reliability performance, a correlation was identified between longer training and fewer staff-related incidents causing delays.

Training methods are evolving, as technological advances allow for a greater reliance on simulators to enable drivers to gain experience and confidence in a controlled environment. The developing dependence on mobile devices was identified as an opportunity to integrate more mobile technology into recruitment and training.

Research: Accessibility Training

Providing accessibility is key to enabling users to travel independently, safely and comfortably within metro systems. This case study identified and evaluated metros’ accessibility training, focusing on developing a culture of assistance, training for non-frontline staff, ‘hidden’ (non-physical) disabilities and unstaffed stations.

The accessibility training has evolved over time from ‘creating awareness’ to ‘achieving equality of service’ because of changes in legislation and regulation, public and customer comments, societal awareness, and developments in technological infrastructure, etc.

The study reviewed the accessibility training modules and content. The training courses are predominantly conducted by metros, with some contributions from third parties such as advocacy groups or charities.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Research: Rolling Stock Replacement vs. Refurbishment

This research project examined metros’ practices when making the decision of whether to replace or refurbish ageing rolling stock.  As annualised expenditure on rolling stock is typically about 20-25% of total operating costs, fleet investment decisions have significant impacts on overall metro costs.  The focus of the study was to identify key factors and criteria in deciding to replace or refurbish rolling stock at end of nominal life, including the risks and opportunities of life extension beyond initial design life; to identify best practices in design, specification and planning of refurbishments; and to advise metros on appraisal and business case development process, parameters and assumptions.

Metros have been gaining increasingly significant benefits through refurbishment, and many metros (especially newer ones) are now undertaking or planning refurbishments to ageing fleets that are approaching or past their initial design lives.  These refurbishment programmes are designed to extend initial design lives by as much as 15-20 years.

Cost saving opportunities of refurbishment
Cost saving opportunities of refurbishment

A key guiding principle is that refurbishment prolongs ‘more of the same’, as reliability following refurbishment tends to remain fairly similar. Therefore, only highly reliable fleets are usually worth refurbishing. A second principle is that most metros limit the extent of technology change attempted through refurbishment. So if significant upgrade is required, for example to enable unattended train operations, generally a new vehicle is preferred.

This case study has successfully assisted CoMET and Nova members in their decision-making. An Asian member needed to buy new trains when their 15-year-old line was extended and re-signalled. Findings from this report assisted with their decision to replace all the trains on the lines, instead of converting the older trains to work with newer signalling and then operating a mixed fleet. Conversely, Montréal STM used this research in support of a decision to refurbish their 40-year-old MR-73 cars and extend their life to 60 years. This is projected to save Quebec taxpayers nearly $500 million over the next 20 years. More information on Montréal’s decision can be found here.