INTEGRATED TM PROVES ITS WORTH
But organisational and cultural change will be key to maximising benefits
TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SPECIAL
In June 2016, David Waboso, recently appointed Network Rail’s Director Digital Railway, set up the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) group. Its role was to reverse the traditional procurement process.
Instead of telling suppliers what was wanted, contractors were asked what they could do for Network Rail.
As part of this process, Network Rail outlined the costs of delays and where the potential savings could be found.
First to respond was Derby-based Resonate. Within six months the company had proposed a trial of its Luminate Traffic Management system at an Integrated Electronic Control Centre (IECC). Resonate would fund, install and support the system: Network Rail would pay for training and associated costs.
In March 2017 Network Rail confirmed that a trial was planned for the Great Western Route, based at the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC), recently upgraded with Resonate’s Scaleable workstations. Contract signature followed in June. If the initial 12-month deployment was successful, the contract provided for an additional three years with the option for a further five.
Although referred to as a ‘trial’, this gives the wrong impression of the contract, suggesting that the aim was to see if Luminate worked.
A more accurate description would be an ‘evaluation’ of Integrated Traffic Management in service. Not does it work, but what does it offer?
Luminate went live at the TVSC on 10 June 2018. Pause to consider the achievement this represented.
In 18 months from proposing the trial, Resonate had delivered Network Rail’s first operational Integrated TM installation. By contrast, the two schemes ordered in May 2014 under the TMS procurement first deployment contracts would not go live, and then with only the most basic Isolated TM, until six months later.
As I reported in October 2018, the evaluation programme began with a ‘soft start’, dictated by the training programme. Luminate launched with a cadre of six trained staff and there was some debate about delaying the start of the trial until there were more users.
However, Digital Railway Senior Programme Manager John Collins took the view that the sooner you started learning, the better. Luminate went live as planned, even though use would be limited in the first three months. Indeed, when I visited Swindon in August 2018, I sensed some frustration among the Resonate team that Luminate was being held back.
Luminate’s basic facilities were train graphing, real-time timetable re-planning, possession management and automated platform docking. These would be extended in a number of firsts over the ensuing 15 months.
In January 2019, with Phase 2 going live, Luminate became the first TM system to accept data from the TRUST train reporting system using Network Rail’s LINX communications network. The ability to receive ‘reliability events’ from TRUST, such as cancellation, terminate short or miss a planned station, meant that the Train Running Controller (TRC) no longer has to enter the same information into both systems twice.
Next came the even more important ability to output data over LINX. This meant that Luminate was now truly ‘integrated’.
TABLE 2: LUMINATE TRIAL TIME-LINE
Date Event Staff trained Usage
December 2016 Resonate submits proposal for Luminate integrated TM trial
June 2017 Resonate awarded GWML integrated TM trial contract
June 2018 Luminate Phase 1 goes live 3xTRC, 3xSSM
July 2018 8xTRC, 6xSSM, 4xControllers
August 2018 6,600 Modications to schedules 1,000 VSTP in system and E-ARS
September 2018 First signaller trained
January 2019 Phase 2 goes live. TRUST inbound data flows enabled
February 2019 75 users, inc 51 signallers
March 2019 Phase 3 goes live. LINX output data links enabled
April 2019 116 users, inc 81 signallers
May 2019 62,737 edits made to date
May 2019 130 users trained
June 2019 Original trial end date, three month extension
June 2019 Final system release. Includes TRUST simplifier views
July 2019 Route establishes dedicated resource for Luminate activities
August 2019 Final Trial Software update includes: Train list enhancements; station working views; change indicator enhancements; improved train graph display
September 2019 Steer benefits analysis report published
20 September 2019 Trial ends
21 September 2019 Transition to ‘business as usual’
However, as consultancy Steer found in its independent assessment reported later, ‘the capability at launch did not meet the expectations of many users’. Steer added that some perceptions are still affected by the launch capability, rather than the latest functionality.
Table 3 highlights some of the most recent enhancements. But as Table 2 shows, staffing, not technical capability, was pacing the evaluation.
Highlighting the development role of the project, by the time the last software version 2.2.0 was loaded at the end of August, there had been 22 software ‘drops’. More upgrades are to come.
Version 2.2.0 incorporated a number of practical changes based on feedback from users. As an example of the one-team approach to the evaluation, Resonate developed a TRUST simplifier display. This was demonstrated to the controllers and signallers before being implemented.
Feedback from the user involvement also resulted in a final software release which was more intuitive and user-friendly. A typical change was the preference for ‘hover over’ rather than ‘click through’ menus.
A point I made to John Collins was that while Network Rail thought it knew what it wanted from TM, until the Luminate evaluation, operators didn’t really know how Integrated TM would affect control and signalling. Mr Collins demurred that after the experience with Cardiff and Romford, Digital Railway knew better than most what it wanted from TM.
However, Great Western Route had had no direct experience of TM and as result the evaluation year had been a case of the Route, together with the Digital Railway project team and Resonate, building up an understanding of TM on the working railway. As the Route’s understanding and ability to input what they want from TM has ‘grown and grown’, Great Western is now a uniquely informed customer. More on this later.
Of course, there is more to come from Luminate. With the evaluation period over, the aim is to build on the current functionality with further upgrades focused on increasing operational performance.
First of the major enhancements will be integration of Crew & Stock Systems decision support tools. This will exploit the data available through the existing Integrale system used by Great Western Railway and other train operating companies (TOCs).
My old chum Clive Burrows, FirstGroup’s Group Engineering Director, has long been an enthusiastic proponent of Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS). He was the driving force behind the C-DAS trial at Airport Junction in 2014, where fast Heathrow Express services have to join the stream of GWR high-speed trains.
That trial, while successful, was not taken up. But now that the Class 800 units have replaced IC125s, Network Rail, GWR and FirstGroup are considering returning to Airport Junction. The Hitachi trains are already fitted with DAS supplied by TTG, which also provided equipment for the original trial. Luminate can re-plan the timetable in real time. What’s not to like?
When the evaluation project was conceived it seemed so simple.
Luminate would get to work, Public Performance Measure (PPM) would improve, GWR’s Schedule 8 disruption payments to Network Rail would fall and some of the financial savings would pay for Resonate’s investment in the project. How naïve we all were.
TABLE 3: LUMINATE VERSION 2.2.0 USABILITY ENHANCEMENTS
■ Train list enhancements
■ Updates to table layout
■ Location filter
■ Display of indicator badges
■ Background colour selection
■ Search for a service
■ Highlight a service when selecting from conflicts list
■ Station working view
■ Change indicator enhancement
■ Display actual line and path codes in train details
■ Display origin and destination indicators on train graph
■ Improve display of headcodes for passing services in Platform Docker
■ Data updates
LUMINATE IN ACTION
On 28 August there were overhead line equipment problems at Didcot. Usage statistics highlight the wide scale use of Luminate.
Of the 609 service changes made, 516 were made by Train Running Controllers at Swindon, 77 by Shift Signalling Managers (SSM) at TVSC and 15 by signallers themselves. The system was used by 17 individuals, setting new records for the number of platform docker, train graph and restriction management ‘consults’.
That might have worked in a steady state operating environment, but as John Collins points out, the GWML has been in a state of constant change for the last decade, including commissioning a fleet of new trains, electrification and resignalling. Add in a significant reduction in delays due to points failures, track circuits and broken rails: attributing any performance improvement specifically to TM is nigh-on impossible.
Intuitively, the Route knows that there have been benefits. Turning them into hard numbers is another matter. As Mike Gallop, Great Western Route Director explains, the biggest performance improvement was at the end of Period 10 last year when electrification to Bristol Parkway was completed. That took the route above its performance target for NR-on-TOC delays.
Faced with these imponderables, Digital Railway, GW Route and Resonate agreed to extend the evaluation by three months and call in consultants Steer to produce an independent assessment of the benefits. An expert panel with representatives from the three participants would guide the Steer team.
When I visited TVSC early in September, Steer had produced its initial report. It provided three key findings – on benefits, usage and the importance of the relationship between people, process and technology.
Steer concludes that the deployment of Luminate ‘creates a stronger foundation for operational benefits to be delivered compared to the pre-Luminate situation’. With Luminate, operational expertise has been embedded in the software.
This has enabled a ‘systematic improvement to the operation to complement the skills of the users’.
Platform Docker is highlighted as providing a ‘significant enhancement’ through its ability to combine decision-support capability with the functionality to implement the decisions. This is consultant speak for ‘you can change platforming on the screen and the changes are implemented in ARS automatically’.
Other specific benefits identified by Steer include a more predictable operating environment, thanks to Luminate enabling ARS to handle Very Short Term Plans. Similarly, Luminate ensures that the instructions sent to ARS are consistent and repeatable.
Steer also highlights the importance of the two-way communications via LINX. In addition to ARS, modifications to train services are also fed automatically into TRUST, providing a ‘single source of truth’ for delivery of the plan. Once again, this is all about predictability in decision making.
Something Steer doesn’t mention, but which was emphasised on my visit, is the impact of Luminate on an ‘average day’. TM was sold originally on its ability to cope with the railway equivalent of the butterfly effect – a train 10 minutes late off Newcastle generating thousands of delay minutes in Plymouth.
But what they are finding at TVSC, and which should facilitate the move to the ‘right time railway’, is the use of Luminate by controllers and signallers to ‘fettle’ the service, ‘changing an average day into a good day’ – Keizen at the click of a mouse.
‘Lots of relatively small decisions aggregate up to a better outcome.’
For example, for Paddington to work well, you have to make interventions at Newbury and Didcot. This is where Luminate’s overview helps controllers make good decisions earlier.
However, the focus of the Steer assessment is not the performance of the technology, but the ability of the organisation and people to exploit its capabilities fully. For example, Steer found that a small number of users have been making a ‘disproportionally high’ number of edits. Steer’s interviews with staff also suggest that not all users have caught up with the latest capabilities.
Thus Platform Docker, which caught on immediately, has been involved in around two-thirds of the total edits made. In contrast, only 15-20% of Terminate Short/Start Forward edits have been made in Luminate.
Steer concludes that ‘lower levels of system use are restricting the user and operational benefits’.
The report notes that ‘delivering unified implementation of TM across people, process and technology is challenging. When these elements are not in sync it restricts the system use and the benefits realised’.
It should be added that at TVSC some signallers are using information from Luminate they have never had before to help them make better decisions, even though the resulting intervention may not be implemented through Luminate. And these decisions will be more consistent and less dependent on experience, while for newer signallers Luminate is a confidence booster.
Steer has confirmed that Integrated TM creates an entirely new operating environment, requiring a cultural change on the control and signalling floors. The nearest analogy I can think of is cavalry regiments changing to tanks.
And it can be a massive culture change. The signallers who transferred when Oxford signal box closed in the summer have come from pushing buttons on an entry/ exit (N/X) panel to an IECC with Scalable, ARS and now the ultimate in TM technology. They are also part of a team working on the IECC floor.
Great Western’s introduction of Luminate was a tripartite venture between Digital Railway, Resonate and the Route. Now that the evaluation has been a success, it is time for Digital Railway to step aside and the Route Operations to take responsibility for melding organisation and technology to create Railway 2.0.
In the past, there has been a tendency to see signalling technology as a commodity supplied centrally for use by the Route. What the evaluation of Luminate has emphasised is that TM requires a synthesis between technology and Operations to maximise its contribution to improving performance.
Even before the Steer report, GW had been looking ahead and as a result Operations is reorganising with new roles which will drive the development of TM, ARS and related systems from within the Route. As Sarah Jane Crawford, the Special Projects Manager for TM, explains, with TM, ARS and the IECC all from the same supplier, GW will be able to leverage Resonate to refine the operation of the railway. She added: ‘dealing with a single entity, Resonate are more integrated with our performance’.
Mike Gallop added that you don’t get the conversation ‘it isn’t us, it’s them’. ‘There is one company, one point of contact, one line of responsibility, one line of accountability that drives this relationship’. Indeed, GW believes that the reason why the Route has made such ‘significant progress’ with TM, compared with other locations, is because TVSC is a truly integrated system on an integrated railway.
From now on development and enhancements will be managed within Operations. Under the Head of Operations there will be a Project Manager Systems with a Project Lead responsible for TM.
These new roles will include responsibility for identifying opportunities to improve the performance of Luminate and engaging with signallers and SSMs to implement the improvements in their interventions. They will also provide the link between the TRCs at Swindon and TVSC to ensure that everyone is aware of the changes being made.
More specific roles will include identifying known problems with the daily timetable downloads to the TVSC. Currently these are identified by Luminate and corrected. The aim will be to work with Capacity Planning to eliminate them.
ARS has been an integral feature of the IECC from the start. Luminate uses the intelligence in ARS to resolve minor conflicts, for example when making changes in Platform Docker. The new team will now identify ARS issues and, where necessary, change the underlying ARS decision-making to exploit the opportunities for improvement being delivered within Luminate. Its final task will be to get some hard numbers on the benefits of TM.
Performance benefits resulting from interventions will be recorded. An example would be a train brought back into PPM, saving the forecasted three minutes of PPM failures.
Meanwhile on the signalling floor the aim is to introduce the new role of Train Service Specialist (TSS). This will be an experienced signaller able to work with Control, signallers and projects to drive further operational benefits from the Luminate/ARS/Scalable system.
The TSSs will provide a continuous focus on performance across the TVSC and the use of Luminate.
In practical terms the job will include acting as a an additional signaller at time of high workload, such as service perturbations, managing the train service through Luminate, coaching signallers on how to use the facilities, reporting on Luminate functionality as seen at the workstation and managing any issues in the data downloaded to ARS. As Sarah Jane Crawford emphasised, ‘the job is to drive a focus on the train service’.
While the TSS concept had yet to be consulted on at the time of my visit to TVSC, the idea came from the signallers at a regular meeting with union representatives.
The job has been trialled and was considered ‘really useful’. I met a TSS during my walk round the signalling floor. He fired up Luminate and showed me how a change of platforming at Paddington could allow a departing train to run straight onto the main line, instead of weaving through the throat. This is an example of the ‘fettling’ mentioned earlier.
Finally, we come to the elephant in the room: how does Resonate get paid for the Luminate system at TVSC now that the evaluation phase is over and TM is ‘business as usual’? As already explained, the concept of sharing the savings in Schedule 8 payments or linking payment to PPM did not survive contact with the operational railway. In addition, as Mike Gallop points out, there are all sorts of intangible benefits you can’t monetise, such as reduced signaller workload. The issue is ‘value not cost’.
As I kept on asking how Luminate could be funded, John Collins broke payment down into two components. First, there is an ongoing service charge covering maintenance of the system, the fixing of bugs and implementation of specified enhancements.
With this ‘you can see what you are getting for your money’.
Secondly there is the issue of the licence fee to be paid for the use of the Luminate system and software which Resonate installed. This was supposed to be covered by savings from TM which we know now can’t be quantified. Agreeing a figure that both parties consider equitable is the subject of the current negotiations.
But I should leave the last word on Luminate to Mike Gallop.
‘So put the question in another way, in 12 months’ time, do we still want to be using Luminate? The answer’s yes. In 24 months’ time, the answer’s still yes.
INTEGRATED PLATFORM DOCKER LIVE AT MARYLEBONE
On 7 October, Resonate’s Platform Docker tool went live at the Marylebone IECC, which was upgraded to Scalable in 2015 (‘Informed Sources’, July 2015). With effectively a single user terminus, both Network Rail and Chiltern Railways controllers are using the tool to make platforming changes which are then implemented directly through ARS.