Metro infrastructure is expensive, complex, intensively used, and critical for the safe and reliable provision of metro services. This study brings together information from 26 metros to identify technologies used by metros for automated monitoring of infrastructure (track, power and tunnels) and detection of pre-failure conditions that may enable a shift to condition-based maintenance.
There were four key benefits identified in the study that could be achieved through the introduction of automated monitoring.
Improved Reliability e.g. increased frequency of measurements, increased knowledge of assets and reduced rate of failures for equipment
Changes to Existing Work Practices e.g. changing maintenance frequencies and procedures without impact on safety/effectiveness
Labour Hour / Cost Savings e.g. changes to existing work practices leading to greater efficiency and/or productivity
Improved Safety e.g. due to increased reliability; reduced time required in danger zone for track workers.
Cleaning has long been an integral part of metro operations, with a focus on manual and resource-intensive methods and following health and safety regulations. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, cleanliness of public transport quickly took on greater prominence, gaining significant political and public interest and becoming a key area for testing and innovation.
Benchmarking of metro cleaning practices offers significant scope for efficiency. Even before COVID-19, cleaning made up almost 5% of an average metro’s operating costs, and as metros begin to recover from the pandemic and attempt to maintain enhanced cleaning standards under constrained budgets, it is essential that metros manage these costs and maximise effectiveness as far as possible.
This study brought together information from 30 metros to explore cleaning trends leading up to the pandemic, including benchmarking on contracts, cleaning hours, and cleaning costs. The study also examined how practices, frequencies and staffing have changed as metros manage COVID-19. Lastly, the study included examples of new techniques, products and practices that have been implemented and found to improve cleanliness outcomes during COVID-19.
Having short overnight maintenance windows is a common challenge for metros globally. Overnight maintenance hours have reduced in 39% of COMET metros over the last five years and over half of them expected to face further pressure to increase service hours over the next five years. During overnight maintenance hours, metros typically spend less than 70% of the period on productive tasks (time-on-tools), which is normally between 2 and 3.5 hours each night.
The study reviews how metros measure performance regarding effectiveness and efficiency of overnight maintenance work, as well as barriers to overnight maintenance hours. Many metros have established procedures for identifying opportunities for innovations to address the barriers. The examples of innovations that have been used by metros to optimise different phases of overnight period include those relating to better advanced planning, changing maintenance philosophy, digitalisation of work orders, optimising staff travel and equipment deliveries, etc.
Real-time information is rapidly becoming a baseline expectation for customers using metro systems. Metros have a wide array of operational and asset data sources, and a multitude of options to present this information to customers. This study brought together practices from 27 CoMET and Nova metros to understand how they provide accurate real-time information to customers by exploring their back-end management of data and front-end presentation of real-time information.
Data relating to train operations are most commonly available across metros, relying on signalling systems for example. Less commonly available are data to do with passenger movements (increasingly important to manage passenger flow in stations and trains). Generally, real-time information in stations becomes more focused on train running the closer the passenger gets to the train, to ensure that customers receive the most relevant information they need to support their journey. Metros are also recognising that digital/remote availability of real-time information is also increasingly important to customers, but so far these are not a substitute for good quality real-time information in stations and trains.
Multimodal operators have an additional opportunity to integrate their real-time information across modes, but integration with other modes and through third party interfaces is an opportunity to present real-time information seamlessly to the customer. Lastly, the study explored the innovations and trends that metros are investing in to improve their real-time information to customers, including greater personalisation and targeting of information and greater accuracy of data.
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.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Imperial College London on the 21st October. As a result of a collaboration between the RTSC, Shanghai Metro, and the Data Science Institute (DSI) of Imperial, the Presidential visit included a presentation on the analysis of smartcard data for the Shanghai Metro network.
Our main research objective was to improve our understanding of demand patterns captured in smartcard data. We visualised passenger flows entering and exiting Shanghai metro stations using the extraordinary visualisation capabilities of the KPMG Data Observatory of DSI. The Data Observatory is the largest of its kind in Europe, featuring an enveloping circular wall of 64 monitors powered by 32 computers facilitating 313 degrees of surround vision.
In the second part of the presentation we visualised a simulation scenario for a hypothetical train service disruption. This allowed us to predict how temporary demand shocks would spread through other parts of the network. Studying disruption scenarios enables operators to prepare for unexpected events and improve the resilience of urban rail networks.
The Presidential visit proved to be an excellent opportunity to showcase the RTSC’s recently developed competences in big data analysis, and the potential of smart card data in cutting edge public transport research.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The application of mobile devices in station asset management currently focuses around inspections rather than more direct forms of asset control.
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.
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:
Supported by electronic ticketing and self-service technology, ticketing staff roles are evolving to focus on broader customer assistance and increased visibility around stations.
There is increasing use of multi-functional staff across the Community of Metros, as well as an increase in their capabilities and responsibilities.
Metros are deploying increasing numbers of roaming staff, across a range of station operations.
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.
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.
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.
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.