Improvement plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had
The ScotRail Alliance – a partnership between Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail - has published a performance improvement plan that will drive up standards and help to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.
The most recent figures show that nine out of ten ScotRail trains arrive within their target time, making it the best performing large operator in the UK.
But those using Scotland’s railway rightly demand higher standards, which is why Alex Hynes, the managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, commissioned an independent review to recommend further improvements.
Nick Donovan, a railway expert with more than 30 years in the industry, has made 20 recommendations. All 20 recommendations have been accepted and now form the ScotRail Alliance’s performance improvement plan.
Key elements of the improvement plan include:
- Measures to improve infrastructure and train reliability.
- Better infrastructure performance during the autumn.
- The suspension of skip-stopping, except as a last resort.
Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail will work over the coming months to implement the performance improvement plan. Nick Donovan will continue to work with the ScotRail Alliance to support the delivery of the performance improvement plan.
Alex Hynes, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance, said:
“Nine out of ten ScotRail trains arrive within their target time, which makes us the best performing large operator in the UK. But we know our customers demand the highest possible standards, which is why I commissioned an independent review into train service performance in Scotland.
“I am grateful to Nick Donovan for carrying out this review, and for making 20 recommendations for improving the performance of both Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail.
“We have accepted all 20 recommendations and these now form our performance improvement plan. Our 7,500 people will work to deliver these changes, so that we can continue to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.
“The performance improvement plan will take time to deliver. A lot of hard work will be needed to tackle the underlying problems that can cause performance to fall below the standard our customers expect.”
Nick Donovan said:
“I am pleased to make these 20 recommendations to Alex Hynes, and look forward to working with those in Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail tasked with delivering them.
“There is a lot of great work taking place across Scotland’s railway, and the performance improvement plan will build on that.”
The 20 recommendations from Nick Donovan’s review are as follows:
1 – Infrastructure resource efficiency should be reviewed and discussed at the Alliance Board
I recommend that the Alliance Board reviews the efficiency of resource utilisation in the delivery of value adding works and post-work completion checking activity. The monitoring must consider the impact on resource utilisation efficiency from non-value add activity including; waiting time for cessation of train services; electrical isolation time; possession set-up and work site access times; access and transit times for people, tools and equipment; time wasted in rework or due to failure of plant. Consideration must be given to improving train berthing arrangements at stations with the aim of maximising the level of non-disruptive maintenance access. The objective of this recommendation is to drive a system wide consideration of arrangements that will increase the efficiency of resource utilisation and an increase in value-add activity.
2 – Eliminate infrastructure failures that occur soon after work completion
I recommend that the arrangements for work assurance and post work completion inspection and testing be reviewed. This must include: consideration of the monitoring of the use of Intelligent Infrastructure in support of functional testing after work completion; the visibility by local Delivery Unit section managers of all work carried out in their geographical area and the associated post completion inspection and testing arrangements and; the robustness of the governance arrangements that underpin long term maintenance quality and assurance of the quality of work. In the short term, I recommend the introduction of additional post work inspection checks for work carried out on assets that are most critical to the reliable operation of the network.
3 – Improve the determination of root cause for infrastructure component failures
Arrangements must be put in place to ensure the Scotland Route is supported with the necessary level of urgency in identifying root cause of component failures with engagement through the supply chain as necessary. Priority should be set to the determination of root cause of failure that has caused or, in another location or at another time, has the potential to cause significant disruption. Local management processes must ensure that a suitable level of tension is sustained to secure root cause analysis within reasonable timescales, together with support as necessary on a case-by-case basis to prevent failure of other components due to the same root cause. Management controls need to be put in place that provide governance around the process and, at a strategic level, shared through the ScotRail Alliance to build confidence in a long-term reliability growth programme.
4 – Provide strategic engineering leadership for the remote diagnosis of infrastructure condition
I recommend that that a system engineer be appointed to lead the strategic development of Intelligent Infrastructure and enable expansion of the capability for remote diagnosis of infrastructure condition. This resource must have access to detailed sub-system design knowledge and access to specialists in the supply chain to understand detailed design parameters of components. This resource must set out a strategic approach to the interpretation of asset monitoring outputs and to the setting of alarms for intervention to complement the largely experiential approach that is currently deployed for developing and managing the system on a day-to-day basis.
5 – Review and agree autumn preparedness at the Alliance Board
The preparation for Autumn including vegetation management, deployment of the Rail Head Treatment Train and resilience of the operating plan should form an agenda item at the Alliance Board and, given the lead time for activity, should stand as a rolling 12-month review. Board members should consider future plans based upon historical evidence, including consideration of trends in location-specific significant incidents. Stakeholder considerations, including the reputational impact that might arise from changes in the level of mitigation activity, must be considered. The Alliance Board might consider that there is merit in similarly reviewing other plans for seasonal preparedness.
6 – Review depot production management arrangements
I recommend that further review take place regarding the depth and breadth of support and resource available in depots in the context of the changes taking place regarding fleet deployment and maintenance contracting arrangements. These arrangements must ensure robust, repeatable process and support local teams with the necessary tools to drive a continuous improvement culture. They must also support the effective management of change within depots, including where new tasks are to be undertaken, to ensure the managed control of the implementation of changes to work activity and processes. In the short term, I recommend the introduction of additional post work inspection checks by local supervisors for work carried out on the fleet that is most critical to its operation.
7 – Put in improved fleet maintenance planning processes
I recommend a thorough review of the arrangements both for long and short-term planning of maintenance activities alongside the operating plan to secure a regular beat rate of activity and enable efficient utilisation of fleet maintenance resource. The level of divergence from the plan must be measured and improvement targets set to support a whole-system view of maintenance planning. The planning arrangements, operational control processes and depot management arrangements must target certainty over both the handover and handback arrangements for fleet between the service operation and maintenance activities. Timely achievement of both handover and handback must be measured with continuous improvement targets set.
8 – Assign clear responsibility for managing the reliability of interfaces between key systems
I recommend that a single responsible manager be identified to take the lead in managing each system that is not wholly contained within one area of functional responsibility. These should include both engineering systems, such as the train radio (GSMR), and operational interfaces, such as the management of short forms.
9 – Review adequacy of future operational resource planning
I recommend an urgent review of the resource planning arrangements and the sufficiency of train crew resource to support planned timetable changes and forecast staff turnover. A plan horizon of at least 3-years should be maintained.
10 - Build a ScotRail network-wide performance model, including both unit diagram and crew diagram dependencies
I recommend that a model that is capable of simulating full network dependencies, including interactions between unit diagrams and crew diagrams, in a network free from significant incidents be procured. Consideration should also be given to expanding the capability of such a model to provide capability for testing the network response to significant incidents, taking into account wider network dependencies such as rolling stock route clearance and train crew route knowledge.
- This model must be validated against current operational output and made available in a timely fashion to support the future validation of unit diagram and train crew diagram dependencies in the operating plan.
- The model should be constructed in such a manner as to be able to forecast the impact of changes to the operational timetable or delivery plan and support evidence-based decision making regarding the merits of proposed changes.
- Other operational dependencies may be included. For example, in RETB areas signaller occupation times in issuing electronic token blocks and interdependencies between trains at different locations that require signaller intervention at the same time should be considered.
11 - Urgently put in measures for right-time departures at Whifflet station.
I recommend that measures be put in place to ensure confidence in right time departures from Whifflet in an operation free from major incident.
Consideration should be given to:
- Ensuring there are no pathing conflicts in the plan, or realised in real life, for the empty stock turn back moves at Wishaw
- Turning back this service closer to Whifflet, perhaps in Moss End Yard
- Running from Whifflet to Wishaw in passenger service, removing the requirement for a 6-minute task (CHK6), taking the train out of service at Wishaw and running ECS from Wishaw to Whifflet to respect the signalling limitations at Wishaw and absence of Driver Only Operation equipment for sending a Glasgow-bound service from the Carstairs-bound platform
12 - Urgently put in measures for right-time departures at Milngavie station
An urgent study should be completed and set of actions put in place to support right time departure of trains from Milngavie in an unperturbed operation. Milngavie is selected as a priority location for this piece of work as the data, so far as it can be disaggregated, together with site observations and evidence from front line discussions, points to this being the most likely location for benefits to network-wide PPM to accrue. This is due to the complexity and interaction within the North-Electric services and also due to the Edinburgh destination for 2 trains per hour which carry delay across to the East Coast Suburban network.
13 - Undertake a systematic review of planning and activity times and local infrastructure design limitations
A systematic review of activity times should be undertaken. It must consider activities included in the Timetable Planning Rules and the other activities that come together to build the operational plan. The available time to carry out activities needs to take into account the planned tolerance in train running and should include that tolerance as a float. That tolerance should be regarded as +4’59” / -0’00”in the context of PPM being set at a time-to-five railway. Activity times that are not recorded in controlled documents must be recorded with suitable governance arrangements put in place to ensure the retention of corporate memory and to ensure the consequences of future change can be properly assessed.
To complement the review of activity times, consideration must be given to limitations on system capability that arise from local design configurations. The aim of this work should be to identify proportionate infrastructure investment that might improve system capacity, resilience or journey time outcomes.
As a consequence of these reviews, there may be opportunities for speeding up some timetable elements and this must be considered in the context of delivery of the improving journey time metric described within the Franchise Agreement.
In the context of this recommendation, I am aware that, in parallel to my study, the ScotRail Head of Performance had secured support from Network Rail’s National Performance Analysis team to examine the performance of sector HA06, particularly in the Partick-Hyndland corridor. I have seen some of the early outputs of this detailed piece of work which lends itself very well to forming a key workstream within this recommendation, particularly with respect to understanding the timing of interactions at junctions.
14 – Improve the level of access to live data to support decision making
I recommend a review of the tools and processes available to front line managers and supervisors who are engaged in activities that impact directly on train running or the recovery from disruption. Specifically, consideration should be given to:
- Provision of P2 access to station coordinators
- Provision of rostering and diagram planning support tools for dispatch management teams
- Improvement to the speed and resilience of access to Train Plan Browser which provides a critical support resource to Train Crew Supervisors for access to crew diagrams
- Benchmarking best practice, firstly between major stations within ScotRail and then elsewhere
15 – Suspend the application of skip stopping, except as a last resort
I recommend the suspension of skip stopping except as a last resort in service recovery, and then only where the skip stop operation has been put in place before a service departs its origin. The timing of the suspension should be coincident with the completion of the following two recommendations that I judge will more than compensate for any real system wide benefit that accrues from the current skip stop arrangements:
- Recommendation 11 – Urgently put in measures for right time departures from Whifflet station
- Recommendation 12 – Urgently put in measures for right time departures from Milngavie station
16 – Co-create the Operational Delivery Plan and Recovery Plan for the Glasgow Electrics
I recommend a strategic review of the relationship between the delivery plan and recovery plan that aims to achieve a complementary outcome and balance between resource optimisation and capability for recovery.
A highly optimised service delivery plan may be appropriate, but requires a far more sophisticated set of recovery arrangements to be put in place than is currently the case. If there are insurmountable barriers to achieving a sufficiently resilient recovery plan, then the operational delivery plan needs to be simpler.
In creating a simpler plan, consideration should be given to isolating lines of route and to increasing the level of unit diagram – driver diagram alignment.
I should note that I am aware from wider industry discussion that work has previously been undertaken to look at improved decision and communication support tools for this geography that might still be valid in offering opportunity for improvement of the recovery plan arrangements.
It is my view that it is extremely unlikely that a resilient recovery plan will be achievable with the complexity of the current operating plan in this area.
17 – Ringfence strategic resource to plan for service robustness
I recommend ring-fenced resource is identified in the organisation to develop and test different operating plan scenarios for the delivery of the train service timetable.
This resource must be tasked with a balanced objective of optimising resource utilisation and achieving a resilient plan that is sympathetic to having reasonable service recovery arrangements applied to it.
The allocation of a short term additional resource particularly skilled in balancing an optimised plan with the reality of operational delivery is recommended.
This approach would support the planning team who are heavily involved in plan changes associated with rolling stock cascades and accommodating major infrastructure delivery plans. It would improve the quality of outcomes in both regards.
The Tracsis resource optimisation tool is used in ScotRail and by many other train operators and provides an excellent tool for scenario testing, but must be driven with a consideration of both resource optimisation and real-world plan delivery.
18 – Reinstate diversionary route knowledge for Yoker drivers
I recommend that diversionary route knowledge is reinstated for Yoker drivers on both the mainline and Bellshill routes to Motherwell and that this knowledge is retained through the diversion of a small number of their services in off-peak hours via these routes. Consideration should also be given to a wider review of whether there is merit in increasing diversionary route knowledge for train crew at other locations.
19 – Restart Performance Control Room and Performance Executive Group with new governance arrangements
I recommend that the current Performance Control Room is disbanded, having lost its way and requiring a “hard reset” on expectations. It should be reformed with a new mandate that focusses on a holistic full-system approach to performance improvement and provide a weekly beat rate review of strategic cross-functional performance improvement initiatives. It must avoid duplicating management effort in considering metrics that are managed through other functional processes. A reformed Performance Control Room could be used to form a core part of the governance arrangements for delivery of the recommendations in this report. In parallel, the governance arrangements for the Performance Executive Meeting must be urgently reset.
20 – Review tools and processes available to ScotRail’s Performance Management team
I recommend a review of the tools and processes used by the ScotRail Alliance performance management team. Specifically, consideration should be given to:
- Review of the access available to performance analysis tools for local ScotRail Performance team members.
- The development of performance analysis tools supported by the National Performance Analysis Team in response to local needs.
- A review of the consistency of reporting between the National Performance Analysis Team and local ScotRail performance team with harmonisation as appropriate and in the context of ensuring adequate opportunity to benchmark performance with other routes.
- Removal of KPIs that are not driving management action or were historically considered in order to address particular concerns, but where those concerns have been addressed on a sustainable basis.
- Rebalancing the time taken in preparation and review of KPIs from lagging indicators to leading indicators.
- Ensuring that accountability for delivery against KPIs is clear and devolved to the individual in the organisation best placed to control or at least significantly influence its delivery.
- Ensuring that, where a KPI requires more than one party to ensure it is delivered, there is a single individual who holds accountability for delivering on behalf of the wider team, with support arrangements in place for them to be able to drive the delivery through others.