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: 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.

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.

Research: Initiatives for Increasing Primary Revenue from Passengers

For most metros, a steadily growing passenger demand and revenue is important for future sustainability. This 2014 Nova case study captured good practice initiatives that members have implemented in their metros to increase the revenue they receive. This study also looked at how the regulatory and political environment affects a metro’s ability to implement these strategies and what methods were being used to measure and forecast demand.

Several of the factors that influence metro demand and revenue are to some extent within a metro’s influence, such as the quality of service, the provision of amenities within stations, and price. However, external factors tend to have the largest impact on demand and there is little metros can do to influence these, at least in the short to medium term.

Factors (Within and Outside Metro Control) Influencing Metro Demand
Factors (Within and Outside Metro Control) Influencing Metro Demand

Members stated that fares policy, service frequency and capacity, infrastructure enhancements, and integration with other transport had the greatest impact on their demand and revenue. Yet, they also appear to be the factors that metro operators have the least control over. We argue that in the longer term, these factors can be strongly influenced by metros but clear and proactive engagement with all city actors such as the Transport Authority or Government is required.

Good practice metros undertake a detailed analysis of their market segments to understand both existing and potential customers. Separating out different customer segments and journey stages may enable operators to exploit previously un-tapped or poorly captured markets. Metro operators should conduct proper advance business case analysis to understand the overall expected revenue impacts and associated costs of proposed demand growth initiatives. Even if forecasting or modelling demand and revenue is done by the transport authority, metros can always benefit from having their own models. This enables metros to make a stronger case to the transport authority about the effects of a particular action.

The most effective strategies implemented by metros included:

  • Bus feeder and bus integration systems which complement metro services and improve access to the metro;
  • Short extensions, infill stations and station upgrades that provide strategic opportunities to improve access to new markets,
  • Increasing off-peak service provision (evening, weekend and inter-peak) at low marginal cost to open the metro up to new or underutilised markets;
  • Targeted fares products to encourage off-peak travel and fill underutilised capacity; and
  • Integrated ticketing platforms and joint promotion that attracts alternative markets.

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.

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.

Research: Asset Information Systems

A Nova research project examined how metros manage their asset information and what systems and applications are used to achieve this. The study identified eight key asset information management (AIM) ‘maturity factors’ adopted by good practice metros. These factors were used to compare the combined effects of each metro’s asset information management, systems and applications. The results were then analysed to begin to understand the reasons behind and paths toward maturity.

Asset information maturity factors
Management and control of asset information are more important than the system used

The study’s key finding is that a metro’s asset information system (AIS) cannot itself manage asset information – it should support a metro’s overall AIM strategy. An AIS itself and the associated technologies are secondary to the need to structure and manage asset information to match the requirements of the business and its users.

Some Nova and CoMET metros have forged ahead and are developing mature approaches that are using the new technology based on good information standards, with sound system management that is based around users and a culture of continuous improvement.

Metro News: Preventing fare evasion in Moscow

Moscow Metro has recently completed trial operation of devices that prevent jumping over turnstiles.  The devices are inexpensive triangular steel structures installed on top of the turnstile, which prevent fare evaders jumping over the turnstiles by leaning on the turnstile’s cover with their hands.

According to observations of metro workers since the trial began in Tsaritsyno station, incidents of jumping over the turnstiles has dramatically reduced, and revenues from the sale of tickets at cashier office had increased. If the full analysis shows positive results, these devices will be installed in other busy metro stations.

Fare evasion prevention pyramids
Pyramids prevent jumping over the barriers

Metro News: Sydney’s unique contract design underpins train performance

About half of Sydney’s suburban fleet has been replaced, in a $3.5Bn Public-Private Partnership (PPP). It is the largest passenger fleet procurement in Australian history, replacing non-air-conditioned rolling stock and providing for future growth. This required a robust commercial and operational framework for a contract term which exceeds 30 years.

In 2004, the NSW railway operator RailCorp took an innovative approach. At the very beginning of the procurement process, rather than at the typical point of signing contracts, it appointed a project delivery leader to establish an integrated commercial, operational, technical and delivery management team. This has been a main contributor to a successful PPP contract, which was structured to underpin safety, quality control, and reliability over 30 years. This specialist team provided input into the final contract design and performance specifications based on previous new fleet deployments.  The delivery team has also proved invaluable in overseeing implementation, from the build phase through to passenger service.

One of the unique features of this PPP contract is that it does not contain typical liquidated damages penalties (although, the separate contract between the consortium’s manufacturer and TLS provider does include liquidated damages).  Instead, the contract relies on several ‘incentivising’ payment mechanisms aligned to drive desired performance outcomes. The payment system promotes behaviour that reduces the need for the NSW railways operator to actively enforce the contract. At the heart of the contract are performance-based payments that require 72 of the 78 trains to be made available for passenger service each day. Until the trains are provided and available, Sydney RailCorp makes no payment to Reliance Rail for them.

Another significant factor has been a comprehensive operational-readiness programme. This involved stakeholder and expert consultation during the development phase, to integrate contract requirements with the operational requirements of the operating railway.  This readiness programme involved over 20 enabling projects including people & change management initiatives to support operational efficiencies and the deployment of the new fleet.

These measures have led to one of the smoothest new fleet deployments in the history of NSW. In just over 14 months, 14 eight-car double deck trains (which include 1 spare set) have been introduced into passenger service and accumulated more than a million kilometres in service.  Feedback and internal surveys indicate customers rate the Waratah train as the best train for performance and comfort amongst all existing fleet, including other recent fleet acquisitions. Similarly feedback from crew about the Waratah trains has been positive with train performance in line with expectations.

Metro News: Metro Rio’s “Pit Stop/Bogie Drop” Replacement System

Metro Rio has recently begun using an innovative system for bogie replacement. In the 1980s, Metro Rio rolling stock’s bogies were replaced using four hydraulic jacks (15 tons capacity each) to lift a 42 tonne metro car and drop the bogie. This equipment was obsolete, unreliable and sometimes unsafe. Furthermore, there was no feature to synchronize the rise/descent of the 4 jacks, thus making it a complex operation. These factors lead Metro Rio to develop a different system to replace bogies using a lifting platform coupled to two hydraulic jacks. This system required the maintenance team to uncouple the specific car from the rest of the train to replace bogies, and this single car could only be moved with a maintenance vehicle (as there is no third rail inside the rolling stock maintenance area).

Recently Metro Rio has acquired a new fleet (19 trains with 6 cars) which uses semi-permanent couplings. The process of uncoupling these is time-consuming, making the current bogie replacement process not very effective. That led Metro Rio to design and construct a new bogie replacement system.

Metro Rio's pit stop bogie replacement system
Metro Rio’s pit stop bogie replacement system

The new bogie replacement system is called “pit stop.” A complete train can get into this system without any maintenance vehicle support as the bogie drop facility is located in a single dedicated track with power supply. The bogie is removed without having to uncouple the cars, reducing the downtime considerably. The “pit stop/bogie drop” is particularly useful when a bogie failure happens during service hours and is necessary to get the train back into revenue operation very quickly.

Train using the pit stop system
Train using the pit stop system