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: 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: Multifunctional Staff

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.

multifuncitonal roles

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.

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: Unattended Train Operation

RTSC’s recent research into unattended train operations (UTO) has investigated the role of human operational support on UTO lines. In doing so, a key finding relates to the use of attendants or train captains – metro staff members who are based in the passenger car, rather than in a separate driver’s cab. Formal definitions of Grades of Automation as in IEC-62290 assume that if a staff member is onboard, they are fulfilling a necessary role, in operating the train, as in London’s Docklands Light Railway where attendants close the doors. The assumption is therefore that lines capable of being operated unattended (Grade of Automation 4) are operated unattended. This research study has found that in fact some metros with GoA4 lines actually use attendants on all trains for other reasons, for example to provide customer service. This has led RTSC to describe this type of line as ‘Attended GoA4,’ reflecting the fact that it fits the specification for a GoA4 line as described in IEC-62290, but is not being operated unattended. The diagram below illustrates how ‘Attended GoA4’ automation fits in with the grades of automation.

Adapted from IEC-62290 for the purposes of demonstrating differences in the real-world operational application of the formal Grades of Automation (GoA1-4) defined in the standard.
Adapted from IEC-62290 for the purposes of demonstrating differences in the real-world operational application of the formal Grades of Automation (GoA1-4) defined in the standard.

The case study explored in more detail the actual staffing levels used or planned on participating metros’ automatic lines. The total number of operational staff was compared with the number of assets (stations and trains) in service, providing metros with a useful benchmarking metric that normalised for differences in line length and service level. A typology of staffing models was also developed and linked with associated staffing levels. This work on staffing was complemented by investigation into the technologies required to enable automation; their costs; and metros experiences with their reliability.

This research was presented as a poster at the 94th Transportation Research Board of the National Academies Annual Meeting in Washington DC, in 2015.