Network Rail selects Altran to take part in COMPASS

04 April 2016

The UK is centralising its signalling system through the development of Railway Operating Centres (ROCs), which, while increasing reliability, are likely to increase the impact of waiting times following signalling failures. In a bid to create a redundant signalling system the COMPASS initiative was formed by Network Rail. It was recently announced that Altran has been selected to take part in the development of the COMPASS system.

Signalling across the UK railway system is becoming more reliable as new technologies are rolled out and investment sees network control gradually transferred to the new Railway Operating Centres (ROCs) springing up around the UK. The centralisation of signalling, however, while improving reliability in terms of volume, has the potential to created increased impact when a failure does occur – the larger areas that ROCs control means that reaching and resolving signalling issues can take longer.

The risks associated with trains being stuck for long periods, of more than two hours, coupled with the high volume of uptake, means that a solution to the current signalling problems has become a priority for two of the major railway stakeholders in the UK, Network Rail and train operating companies.

One of the proposed solutions is that Combined Positioning Alternative Signalling System (COMPASS). The system leverages a wide array of data sources to determine train position, direction and speed in real time for safety critical commands and information update requirements. The data is combined to provide signallers with track independent information about the train’s location to allow signalling decisions to be made following a signal failure. The system as a whole has the potential to significantly reduce waiting times as trains are able to, abate slowly, more through the affected area.

Network Rail selects Altran to take part in COMPASS

Network Rail recently announced that Altran has been selected to take part in the development of a positioning solution COMPASS. The firm, following the completion of the feasibility phase of the project, is moving onto the next phase, which is to develop a demonstration of the solution by the end of 2016. The solution leverages the firm’s VueForge platform, which combines satellite positioning and wireless communications to ensure resilience and operational flexibility following a signalling failure. The system uses signaller’s unit, which will be installed alongside the normal work station screen, and a train borne unit to be installed in the driver’s cab. Following a signal failure the system is activated, with the position data of a range of trains fed into an innovative data analytics programme to allow safe and efficient passage of multiple vehicles through a blockage.

Mike Simms, Chief Executive Officer of Altran UK, said: “Altran has long been recognised for the development of high -integrity software and systems – it is great to see this being applied to such an important rail project. The Altran UK team is delighted to have been selected for this exciting development.” John Collins, Programme Manager, Network Rail says: “Both Network Rail and RSSB are looking forward to working with Altran to progress the COMPASS project throughout the remainder of 2016.”

According to a study by BCG, the UK has the 8th best performing rail system across Europe.


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.