NATS taps Altran to design new air traffic conflict detection tool

14 November 2017

NATS has partnered with Altran to implement a next generation conflict detection tool, as consulting firms continue to benefit from innovation in the aerospace industry. The new contract sees a continuation of a long term alliance between the air traffic management service and Altran.

The UK air traffic services provider, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), has awarded Altran the contract for the development of FourSight, a next generation air traffic conflict detection tool. The contract sees a continuation of relations between Altran and NATS that has included numerous landmark air traffic management projects, with the work on FourSight complementing what Altran has been doing with NATS to develop a state-of-the-art new Strategic Human-Machine Interface for its controllers, with the aim of having a common interface across all positions at both Swanwick and Prestwick.

FourSight will be the successor to NATS’ hugely successful iFACTS system, which, since its 2011 launch, has been used to predict an aircraft’s location up to 18 minutes into the future. While the obvious safety applications were the chief driver of the technology, the system also helped cut emissions and resulted in a 40% capacity increase for some airspace sectors. iFACTS, however, is currently only used in NATS’ London Area Control operation. With FourSight, the group hope to see the benefits applied across the NATS en-route operation at the Swanwick and Prestwick centres.

NATS taps Altran to design new air traffic conflict detection tool

Tim Bullock, NATS Director, Supply Chain said, “NATS is investing heavily in the replacement of our current operational systems with modern SESAR compliant technology that can offer airspace users increased safety, more network capacity and maximum opportunities for fuel efficient routes.”

Dominique Cerutti, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Altran Group added, “I am very happy that our long-standing relationship with NATS has entered its next phase of maturity with our selection for this new and ambitious project. We will support NATS in pursuit of a common goal to assist in the implementation of this important European initiative.”

The new contract follows closely on Altran closing another deal, along with Rapita Systems and the University of Oxford, to helm a National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme funded project aimed at automating the testing of SPARK related software within the aviation industry. The objective of the programme is to support the development of around 100 undeveloped ‘low hanging fruit’ aerospace technologies – creating more than 1,200 jobs in the process.

Beyond Altran, the air traffic control consulting industry of London is presently going through a period of innovation-driven growth, more generally. In order to keep up with demand, professional services firm Air Partner obtained ownership of environmental and air traffic control services specialists SafeSkys last month. The firm, which works with clients in UK and international airports, will also expand Air Partner's consulting and training offering in the aviation safety segment.

This growth is by no means isolated to the UK, with Central European air traffic services provider FAB CE calling in consulting firms in October. Aviation consultancy Helios and Integra Consult were both hired to run its Programme Support Office (PSO) for the next three years.


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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.