Re-focussing on fleet reliability

Customer demands are forcing the rail sector to develop partnerships and collaborative workstreams to deliver fleet reliability. A recent seminar organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in association with ATOC, focussed on case studies, workshops and experiences from key rail sector stakeholders who have delivered successful projects.

Stuart Draper, Engineering Director of Northern Rail, opened the proceedings in his capacity as Chairman of the Reliability Focus Group – known as ReFocus – which presents forward-thinking views on the future of performance monitoring, moving away from NFRIP reporting towards a more inclusive ‘miles per Trust incident’ and ‘delay minutes per incident’. Despite an interesting debate on their merits, the seminar emphasised how to improve performance rather than measure it. As Peter Leppard, Arriva Trains Wales’ Operations and Safety Director, said later in the day, “Fleet management should continue to focus on preventing the root cause of incidents in the first place.”

One emerging theme was the benefits to be had from working closer as one railway – driving cooperation between operations and engineering to reduce the impact of in-service delays.

Balanced approach

In his keynote address, Tony Mercado, Rail Technical & Professional Director at the Department for Transport, reminded his audience that passengers are primarily concerned with being able to travel from one station to another safely and on time.

A balanced approach is required in working to deliver performance improvements for less investment. Engineering reliability projects must be fully evaluated to judge how much gain can be made in isolation, mindful that while reliability is important, maintaining an overall view of the railway as a system is crucial. Operators need to work across the industry to achieve these goals and reduce costs.

Christian Roth, South West Trains’ Engineering Director, gave an interesting summary of the industry’s state today, recapped the challenges that had been faced in 2009/10 and looked forward to initiatives underway to improve matters in 2010/11.

re-focussing fleet reliability trains
Trains in the depot


Three workshops explored potential themes for next year. One, entitled ‘20 point plan (20pp) – what needs developing and how to develop the 20pp to reach the maximum audience and deliver best practise’ was chaired by Derek Jackson, Performance Development Engineer at ATOC.

Mark Robinson, Director of Chrome Angel, oversaw a second workshop looking at ways in which asset management practices and whole-life cost modelling can improve value and performance in managing UK rolling stock assets. The third, hosted by Ian Charters of Continuity Systems Ltd, covered ways that the rail sector can improve reliability through continuity planning for such events as flooding and seasonal disruption.

Partnership and planning

Everyone came together again to hear David Ling, Fleet Manager – High Speed, South Eastern Trains and Neville Dyson, Depot Manager, Hitachi explain how partnership and planning can bring projects to a successful conclusion. They used examples from the recent Class 395 programme including the introduction of a dedicated design review in both Japan and the UK, early freezing of the design, prompt testing for introduction to HS1 and an open book approach from all stakeholders.

Gerry McFadden, Fleet Director, Southern and Peter Leppard, Operations and Safety Director, Arriva Trains Wales, outlined their thoughts on the fleet/operations interface, particularly how the operations department can assist in making ‘delays per incident’ improvements.

Interactive virtual train

Another joint presentation, this time from Darren Ward, Head of Operations Strategy, East Midland Trains and Nick Waring, Director, 5 Lamps Media, introduced an interested audience to the Interactive Virtual Train – a photo-realistic model of vehicles. Its benefits are across multiple functions, for example enhancing cross-discipline training, orientating new staff or modelling interior refresh changes prior to implementation.

The virtual environment has the potential to improve the handling of in-service delays with use in maintenance control, providing information on how best to respond to a live situation. In addition to performance improvements, it offers a model to move forward with maintenance processes, encouraging our legacy railways to advance and explore new ways of improving engineering standards.

The seminar’s closing comments came from the acting Chairman of the National Task Force, Chris Burchell, who in another guise is Managing Director of Southern. He highlighted that the cycle of continuous improvement produces happier customers and that greater customer confidence normally delivers a growth in passenger numbers. In turn, this will create a more sustainable railway that can confidently deliver the quality of service which matches growing levels of expectation.

re-focussing on fleet reliability train
A photo-realistic virtual model that benefits training and refurbishment


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