When Serious Disruption Becomes the ‘New Normal’ for Train Planners

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Today’s UK Rail Sector Visualised

For the UK rail sector, disruption is nothing new. From the cascading of rolling stock to electrification, franchise changes, timetable failures, ERTMS implementation and more, disruption has become the way of life for UK train operating companies. Now we face the aftermath of COVID-19 as a further dimension to an already complex set of circumstances.

Recovery from a situation like this is unlikely to be a smooth transition. More likely we will see a gradual process with frequent and urgent responses to a range of developing factors. In other words: a timetable planner’s nightmare.

COVID-19 recovery will strain our short-term planning capabilities, underlining the urgent requirement for tools that empower planners to respond much more quickly – and much more effectively.

What can better short-term planning tools do to address these circumstances?

  1. Make short term alterations from plan

Planners should be able to make short-term plans as variations from the existing plan. Requiring planners to manually recreate new data from scratch is a needless waste of precious time.

  1. Scenario planning decision support

Empower planners with powerful algorithms that can process vast numbers of ‘what if’ scenarios, enabling them to deliver fully optimised timetables in minutes, observing all available rules and conflicts.

  1. User-friendly graphs

Provide planners with detailed graphs that reduce complexity, instantly showing all options and platform and line information. Planners can create or combine graphs, and zoom in to identify problems and hotspots, providing clarity and reducing keystrokes.

  1. Robustness

Provide planners the assurance that their tools will always be there for them: reliability, regular upgrades, and the ability to save work provide vital reassurance.

  1. Technology

Planners need tools to help them work more productively. That means fast data processing for decision support, and the ability to work on a laptop wherever and whenever required.

  1. A test system

Armed with a fully functioning test system, planners could import their own rules and data to assess the effectiveness for themselves. Crucially, full traceability would enable them to prove the effectiveness to managers and decision makers, paving the way for full utilisation of planner-empowering technology.

Signature Rail’s planning tools help planners to work faster and more efficiently. Users report that plans can be produced up to 60% faster than with other tools.

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Data and Integration for Efficiency, Passenger Experience and a Greener Future

“In rail, something always goes wrong. We often say that Murphy works in rail. But not only Murphy; his whole family too!”

This comment from Vy’s (formerly Norwegian State Railways, NSB) Peter Hausken perfectly captures his keen sense of humour.

But dig a little deeper and you realise it also underlines what has made him such a powerful advocate for change.

Vy case study image of child and man getting on train

Customer Case Study: Vy

With multiple technology solutions across different areas, Vy wanted to ensure all systems worked in harmony, supporting the production of effective plans that flow through to the day of operation. Special Advisor Peter Hausken explains how the team uses technology to manage disruptions, enabling better informed decisions and ensuring accuracy of information to passengers.

serious disruption for rail planners chart

The UK Rail Sector Visualised

Antony Chilton-Murphy identifies current disrupters and drivers of change, and outlines how technology can serve as an ‘enabler’ – with specific focus on decision science as a way to manage the incredibly diverse and complex variables faced by today’s train planners.