Ecorys supports evaluation of Better Start initiative

06 March 2015

Consulting firm Ecorys has been selected to assist in the evaluation of Big Lottery Fund’s A Better Start initiative, set up to improve the life chances of thousands babies in the UK. The firm will develop a 10 year programme that will ensure that lessons learned are used effectively.

Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start
The ‘Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start’ initiative has been set up by the Big Lottery Fund* to improve the life chances of over 60,000 babies and young children aged between 0 and 3 years in the UK. The initiative does so by “achieving a step change in preventative approaches in pregnancy and the first three years of life, based on the best available science on what works.” In June 2014, the Big Lottery Fund selected five partnerships in Nottingham, Southend-on-Sea, Lambeth, Blackpool and Bradford that each are awarded up to £50 million funding over ten years to support thousands of parents in giving their children the best start in life. The grants are to be used to redesign local services while focussing on three key areas: social and emotional development, nutrition and communication and language development.

Ecorys to assist in evaluation of Better Start initiative

Ecorys has been selected to assist in the national evaluation of the initiative, which will be delivered by The Warwick Consortium**. The consulting firm has been charged with the “learning and dissemination work stream” and will develop a 10 year programme of activities that ensures that the outcomes and lessons from the evaluation are promoted and shared amongst interested stakeholders. The programme will include capacity building for local partnerships, national conferences, workshops and policy round table sessions, as well as website and communications activities.

* The Big Lottery Fund is a UK non-departmental public body that is responsible for distributing funds raised by the National Lottery for good causes. The money raised goes to projects that help communities and the lives of people by improving health, education and the environment.

** The Warwick Consortium is led by researchers from the University of Warwick and also includes researchers from Oxford University, Kings College, Durham University, Imperial College and Glasgow University.


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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.