Research: Innovations to Optimise Overnight Maintenance

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.

Research: Customer Experience in Stations

Customer Experience is the sum of feelings and perceptions along the entire customer journey. Metros are striving to provide more than basic service driven by rising customer expectations and opportunities of new technologies. The study explored how metros define and measure customer experience, as well as looked in detail at six dimensions as the most important ways in which stations contribute to overall customer experience: trip planning, fare payment, wayfinding, providing customer help, cleanliness, and amenities in stations.

Metros can adopt multiple strategies to improve customer experience in stations. Considering the pros and cons of the following strategies would help to identify suitable initiatives.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, metros have made the substantial changes to how they operate their systems and manage customer experience in stations, i.e. shifting to contactless payment, requiring face coverings, enhancing cleaning, providing real-time crowding information, etc.

Research: Noise and Vibration

Noise and vibration are byproducts of urban rail systems, exacerbated by siting metro infrastructure near to sources of demand. This study was carried out as a follow-up to previous work that has been carried out in CoMET and Nova on the topic and examined practices to reduce and mitigate noise and vibration from 27 CoMET and Nova metros.

The research covers a number of areas including benchmarking of metro networks, benchmarking of noise and vibration levels, key issues causing noise and vibration across metros, relevant regulation, targets, and importantly initiatives to reduce and mitigate noise and vibration. The study identifies the key actions that metros can undertake during planning, design and operations, as well as proactive and reactive measures that metros can take once the system is already operating and established. The widest and likely most effective range of actions can be taken early in design and planning, but there are a number of options across operations and maintenance that can help to manage and reduce noise and vibration. The challenge is for metro operators will be to continue to mitigate, manage and reduce noise and vibration impacts alongside rising expectations for liveability in cities, regulatory requirements, and the long-term nature of infrastructure design.

Research: Real-time Information

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.

Research: Station Staffing Models

Changes to metro station staffing models are being driven by several factors, such as customers’ increasing expectations in stations and opportunities to use staff for the highest value-adding activities. This Station Staffing Models study identified key drivers behind the decisions and policies governing staffing models and the key enablers for effective station staff deployment.

There are primarily four station staffing models that metros use. Staffed stations with primarily multifunctional staff and/or specialist staff are the most common station staffing models.

Over half of responding metros reported significant changes to staffing models in recent years. The study therefore discussed optimal staffing model in metros based on passenger volumes, station types, roster patterns, level of automation, and digitalisation initiatives, etc. Further changes in staffing models are expected to increase as customer needs, station facilities and cost structures evolve in the future.

Research: Signage in Stations and Trains

Signage is designed to convey information primarily to assist passengers with decision-making, therefore factors such as clarity, visibility, safety, accessibility, applicability and style are important elements to take into account in signage design. Good signage communicates with passengers effectively by using clear messages, appropriate shape and size, recognisable symbols and infographics, legible typefaces/fonts and clearly contrasting colours.

Selected factors involved in signage design

The study gathers information from 28 CoMET and Nova metros and looks into their guidelines for signage design, as well as good examples that have been implemented by metros. These examples are presented by exploring six key objectives: signage for clarity, signage for branding and identity, signage for safety and security, signage for wayfinding and navigation, signage for accessibility, and signage to encourage good behaviour. The enhancements carried out by metros to improve clarity, visibility and legibility of signage are also discussed in the report. Currently, metros are exploring various approaches to complement their static signage with new types of dynamic information to encourage greater passenger awareness and decision-making. This includes dynamic information for crowd control, passenger flow, and incident response, leading to an increasing use of digital signage, and other mobile applications.

Research: Reliability of Signalling Equipment

Signalling is a safety- and service-critical metro asset. Across CoMET and Nova metros, signalling is the second-highest cause of delay incidents, and cause approximately half of all delay incidents for very reliable metros. This study analysed information from 26 metros about their signalling equipment, looking in detail at six sub-assets: point machines, interlockings, track circuits, axle counters, train stops, and signal heads. The study compares these sub-assets, including their age, reliability, and inspection/maintenance regimes, and collects initiatives that metros are pursuing to improve signalling reliability.

Metros with older and more traditional signalling systems tend to have more trackside signalling equipment, which may lead to more potential for failure and greater need for maintenance interventions to maintain reliability. To improve signalling reliability metros are rationalising their asset bases, as well as pursuing both solutions that can be retrofitted into their existing systems and new systems such as CBTC.

RTSC Becomes the TSC

The Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) at Imperial College London has a new name! In 2019, we became the Transport Strategy Centre (TSC) recognising the broad reach of our team’s work. The TSC works across public transport modes – metros, railways, buses and light rail, as well as airports.

For more information about the TSC and our work, please see our main website here.

As of early 2020, the TSC works with these cities around the world

Research: Managing and Reducing Absenteeism

Absenteeism presents widespread impacts of loss of productivity, delays and reduced morale that would affect metros’ efficiency and reliability. Currently CoMET and Nova have an average staff absenteeism rate of 4.7% (based on 2018 data), creating significant challenges for managing service provision. This study investigated levels of absenteeism at CoMET and Nova metros, identified and explored underlying causes of absenteeism, and discussed best practices to manage and/or reduce absenteeism. In discussing the factors that metros have identified that lead to absence, it is clear that absenteeism does not have one single cause and is influenced by multiple internal and external factors. It therefore requires a comprehensive set of solutions to manage and reduce.

Approaches and actions to manage and reduce absenteeism focus on measurement and management of absence data and positive approaches to employee relations. Initiatives within these categories help ensure that metros understand the scale of the issue across different organisational parameters (such as absenteeism rates by team) as well as developing an overall culture of care and trust between management and labour.

 

Research: Employee Engagement

This study investigated which metros undertake employee engagement initiatives and the range of approaches used, and the initiatives metros have used to improve employee engagement. CoMET and Nova metros range in organisational size from around 1000 employees to over 40,000 in some cases. Highly engaged employees are likely to understand how the organisation works and is governed, understand the mission, values and behaviours of the metro and understand the organisational culture. Importantly, engagement is not the same as satisfaction (although this is one aspect of engagement).

The majority of CoMET and Nova metros measure employee engagement using a single methodology for all employees. The frequency of measuring employee engagement varied, with more frequent surveys allowing for targeted questioning, while less frequent surveys allow recognition of changes in organisational culture. A number of initiatives for employee engagement measurement and improvement were identified in this study that metros have deployed or are planning to deploy. These initiatives span communications between staff and with leadership, performance management and recognition programmes, working conditions and staff facilities, health and wellbeing, financial benefits and benefits-in-kind, events, and safety at work.