Cardiff and Thameside

ODST making a difference

It’s early days, but slow take-up by operators is proving a challenge


Thales’ Aramis Isolated Traffic Management went live at Cardiff Rail Operating Centre and Upminster Service Delivery Centre (SDC) in March this year. These were the two early deployment schemes ordered in 2014 under Network Rail’s original TMS procurement programme.

Isolated is the simplest form of TM and provides what are termed Operations Decision Support Tools (ODST) within the existing signalling process. In plain English, Controllers and signallers use the TM to inform their operating decisions which are then implemented manually.

With a short, simple route like Thameside (London, Tilbury & Southend in BR-speak), Network Rail has been able to quote individual cases where ODST has improved performance. An early example followed the imposition of a 20mph Emergency Speed Restriction (ESR) on the Down Main Line (DML) at East Ham due to a rail defect.

Using the ability of Aramis to run simulations of train services offline, the ESR was entered into the system as an availability constraint. When the service was simulated, Aramis showed that the ESR would cause a delay of three minutes to all trains.

This enabled the impact of the ESR to be quantified. The 196 trains running over the DML at East Ham would generate 594 minutes of primary delays, equivalent to at least £35,640 a day in Schedule 8 payments to c2c. Total cost over the proposed five days would be £178,000.

Based on these figures it was decided to rectify the rail defect overnight with alterations to the last few services to provide the permanent way staff with sufficient access time. This scheme was successful and, of course, minimised the impact of the rail defect on passengers.

Aramis includes a Platform Docker and, as with Great Western, this is proving valuable. For example, when a passenger became ill on a train approaching Fenchurch Street, Platform Docker was used to simulate the options in case the passenger was unable to walk off the train. The train was rescheduled to platform 4, swapping with another service.

Another example was a stock swap at Shoeburyness where the planned set had an air conditioning failure. Normally this set swap would have involved the Train Service Manager consulting the working timetable or making the swap in Shoeburyness Carriage Sidings.

This would have delayed the service and could have resulted in a cancellation. Platform Docker was used to identify the optimum platform to carry out the change.


When a train suffered a SPAD (signal passed at danger) at West Thurrock Junction, Aramis identified that a planned empty stock move from Fenchurch Street to East Ham depot could be stepped-up to cover the back working of the withdrawn train. Tracsis’ crew system (see p32) was also used to provide train crew for the replacement service. As a result, a cancellation was avoided.

Freight on the LTS: loco No 66618 descends from Barking flyover with the 05.22 Tunstead Sidings to West Thurrock loaded cement working on 24 July 2019. In the background is a westbound District Line service. Antony Guppy

While Thameside is the archetypal commuter railway, the route does handle freight traffic.

Upminster is using Aramis to track early or late running freight services entering Thameside via the Barking flyover.

This provides early engagement between the Upminster Signalling Shift Manager (SSM) and the Romford Rail Operating Centre Train Running Controller (TRC). To take one example, a freight service was running 20 minutes early at Barking and Aramis highlighted a conflict with a passenger service at Grays. As a result, the SSM was able to ensure the signaller regulated the passenger service ahead of the freight.

A recurring comment during visits to control and signalling centres is the presence of errors in the working timetable (WTT) downloaded each day. A valuable role for TM is checking for such errors.

For example, Aramis highlighted a WTT schedule conflict at Cardiff Central. This enabled a set swap to be requested by Transport for Wales, minimising the overall delay.

While lacking the power of a fully Integrated system, ODST helps controllers and signallers make better decisions faster.

For example, when a signaller at Upminster reported that automatic route setting (ARS) had failed to generate the correct headcode for a train just before departure, Platform Docker rapidly identified the correct back-working. The signaller was able to change the headcode in time for a right time start. Previously the headcode would have had to be identified from a paper document – a much slower process.

And while the Platform Docker has taken the limelight, Train Graphs are also proving their worth. A bridge strike in Wales affected trains in both directions.

The TRC used the train graph to give a comprehensive picture of potential conflicts, avoiding the need to make repeated checks on CCF and TRUST.


What issues have the first nine months of operation shown up? Remember that is it still early days and even years of shadow running and simulation are no match for experience on the real world, real-time railway. As the boxer Mike Tyson observed, ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’.

During high-impact incidents, typically involving around 30 PPM failures (trains more than five minutes late or cancelled), it has proved difficult to keep Aramis in step with live alterations.

On one day in August, for example, Thameside had two major incidents to manage between 16.30 and 21.00. These were a points failure at East Ham and obstruction on the overhead line at Westcliff, together generating over 1,000 delay minutes and more than 70 PPM failures.

During this disruption Aramis was unable to be used or consulted due to the sheer volume of service alterations.

One suggested upgrade is the ability for TM to use service alterations inputted by the Customer Information Manager into the Tyrell system that is used to provide structured messages to TOC staff such as cancellations and short train formations. A programme of enhancements is being developed by Network Rail and c2c with Thales. c2c has also appointed a ‘TM champion’ at the SDC who is working with Thales on improving process and system effectiveness.


As Steer found with Luminate, growing the use of the Aramis facilities by staff at Upminster SDC has been a ‘challenge’. User groups have been meeting to understand concerns. Given that Upminster is a long established Integrated Electronic Control Centre, I would have expected the introduction of Isolated to have been less of a challenge than Integrated Luminate at the Thames Valley Signalling Centre.

And there is more change to come at Upminster. Resonate is due to upgrade the IECC to Scalable in the new year.