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.

Research: Planning and Scheduling Work Affecting Revenue Service

All metros must carry out work to enable continued operations and to ensure safety and reliability. These works include not only routine maintenance (which occurs on an ongoing basis) but also periodic work to renew, upgrade, or even replace assets. While every effort is made to conduct these works outside of revenue service hours (during the few overnight engineering hours that most metros have), the volume and scale of some works ultimately require more extensive closures that impact revenue service. This study investigated how metros design work plans, manage and govern track access, and communicate work to customers.

Approximately half of responding metros allow work to impact revenue service, and with increasing demand and ageing infrastructure this seems likely to increase in the future. In general, metros are using three key criteria to determine whether a project should be allowed to affect revenue service: whether the disruption is unavoidable, how urgent the work is, and whether alternative transport can cope with the added demand. In terms of service design during work, selecting the right service strategy is not straightforward. Metros need to balance the impacts of different approaches on operations (e.g. resource needs), maintenance, customer service, and revenues. Finally, in terms of communicating service information, social media is a primary form of communication with customers now, but a mix of channels is still needed to ensure that metros’ diverse audiences are reached.

Community of Metros News: CoMET 2019 Management Meeting in Madrid

The CoMET group convened in Madrid for the first meeting of the year. The CoMET 2019 Management Meeting welcomed all 17 members of CoMET for the first time since 2016. The group also welcomed metros visiting from Nova – Metropolitano de Lisboa, San Francisco BART, and Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona – and Tokyo Metro as observers to the meeting. Members were welcomed to the meeting by Borja Carabante, Chief Executive Officer at Metro de Madrid, and Rosalía Gonzales López, President of the Board of Directors of Metro de Madrid and the Regional Minister of Transport, Housing and Infrastructure. 

The group was particularly honoured to share in Metro de Madrid’s 100th Anniversary celebrations, taking place throughout 2019. During the meeting, members had the opportunity to learn about the history of Metro de Madrid through visits to Chamberi station museum, where a variety of restored trains and artefacts are on display, and Chamartín station, which is a good example of historical station design. Members also learned about Metro de Madrid’s “Estación 4.0” where new innovations for the metro are tested.

Members also exchanged their latest activities, challenges and initiatives during meeting sessions, as well as focusing on preparations and lessons learned from major events. The RTSC presented latest benchmarking results from studies such as Energy Saving Strategies, Escalator Management (Availability, Assets and Safety), and Metro Security, as well as exploring key performance indicators focusing on key areas of metro operations and management.

The annual Management Meeting is where the upcoming CoMET work programme is determined by the members. After voting on 36 potential topics for study in 2019, the group agreed on four studies for 2019 – a large study focusing on station staffing models, real-time travel information, and focused studies on best practices using signage in stations and trains, and digital transformation of metros. The studies will be carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) at Imperial College London over the next year.

Research: Modern Maintenance Practices

Technological advances have created the opportunity to transform maintenance practices to develop cost-efficient infrastructure management and improved system performance with regard to safety and reliability. To consider balance between preventive and corrective maintenance for managing track, switches and crossings, and civil structures, the study looked into what the optimal balance should be. Incorporating flexibility and slack into maintenance plans and focusing on dealing with the constraints of staff scheduling and limited track access, are strategies to increase the proportion of preventive works.

By analysing time-use during track access, the study identified major causal factors for lost time during possession to be travel and preparation. Therefore the strategies used by metros to reduce lost time were outlined in the study. The study also looked at key factors that influence maintenance costs, as well as examined metros’ outsourcing strategies.

Automation was seen to reduce the volume of labour necessary, particularly in labour intensive activities such as on-foot inspections. Three main areas of future maintenance practices with potential were identified: better data, improved maintenance practices, and renewals. Good practices in these areas were listed as examples in the report.

Research: Metro Security

Trends concerning crime were found to be highly regionalised both for types of crimes committed (against person, property etc.) and evolution. Over the period from 2012 to 2017, the rate of crimes across CoMET and Nova metros is decreasing for 65%, with the largest decreases occurring primarily at Asian metros that already have very low crime levels.

(Am – American Metro, As – Asian Metro, Eu – European Metro)

Patrols and CCTV are ubiquitous means of surveillance though they have different secondary benefits. Nearly all metros reported that security staff are multifunctional and can respond to customer queries as well as providing crowd control and passenger assistance. This is also typically complemented by station staff notifying security of issues and monitoring CCTV.

Technological advances were identified as key drivers of change within metro security both to inform strategies and to monitor crime. The key areas where advanced technology for security are developing include passenger screening, smart cameras, the use of apps, and the provision of enhanced infrastructure (such as 5G networks).

Research: Passenger Incident Management

On average for CoMET and Nova metros, passengers contribute to 17% of all incidents causing delays of five minutes or more.  The causes of passenger incidents range from suicide, vandalism, passenger taking ill, etc. The breakdown of passenger related incidents by cause and by delay threshold shows although the frequency of suicides is very low, those incidents take the longest to resolve.

As well as detailed benchmarking of the passenger-related causes and impacts of incidents at metros, the case study outlined metros’ best practices in  passenger incident management, including a data-driven approach in analysing passenger incident impacts, effective incident response by a clear chain of command, high levels of coordination with the emergency services, clear and consistent communications and procedures, appropriate staffing models and regular training with a focus on learning from past incidents.

Research: Optimisation of Train Availability

In 2017, the average peak hour train availability was 88% for all CoMET and Nova members. Main causes of train unavailability were planned preventive maintenance, unplanned corrective maintenance, refurbishments and major damages. The biggest constraint to train availability is related to train reliability issues, specifically train failures occurring outside of peak hours which cannot be repaired in time.

The study foucused on the four maintenance and operational approaches that are utilised by metros to optimise train availability: allocation of train maintenance, outsourcing train maintenance, flexibility in operations, and introduction of remote condition monitoring.

Metros’ biggest successes or their future plans in terms of improving train availability are related to optimisation of maintenance work to improve reliability, train refurbishment plans, and introduction of remote condition monitoring on trains.

Research: Escalator Management

The three-part scope of this case study covered escalator availability, safety and asset management. Firstly, the study explored definitions and targets for escalator availability and identify causes of, and solutions to, unavailability. Secondly, it identified low-cost practices to improve safety. Finally the study benchmarked escalator asset lives and the nature of maintenance interventions during the lifecycle.

Long-term actions that metros have taken to improve escalator availability are the operational and maintenance practices either to reduce failures from occurring or to restore availability as quickly as possible after escalators go out of service. This involves proactive maintenance work to ensure that escalators are in good condition during passenger service hours, and working with maintainers to optimise their response and supply chain.

Regarding escalator asset management, it is important to adopt a whole-life approach and assess maintenance approaches on this basis, considering the annualised cost of ownership, whole-life unavailability caused by maintenance, the scope and frequency of maintenance interventions throughout the lifecycle, and the customer-facing unavailability caused by maintenance.