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: 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.

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.