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Author Topic: Reliability, Reliability, Reliability  (Read 1276 times)
grahame
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« on: August 17, 2019, 06:40:39 am »

Our mini-survey at http://www.passenger.chat/22054 brought reliabiity up as the most important factor you consider when you elect to travel by train. And I took the libery of reminding the group at yesterday's timetable "snagging" meeting of that prior to December - for goodness sake get it reliable. The point was brought home when the Transport Focus rep at the meeting followed up to confirm that our results mirror their nationwide findings. So, yes, it will be nice to speed up the trains but for goodness sake please don't do so at the expense of reliabiity!

Put another way ...

1: Reliability
2: Reliability
3: Reliability

So - how do you do that?

1. Design for reliable performance in the first place
2. Preventative maintenance so that less goes wrong
3. Improve mitigation so that you can deal with issues quickly and with less damage

Big problem ... no single cause of reliabiity problems ... so no easy solution.
* This is due to a tree blocking the railway earlier today.
* This is due to a shortage of train crew.
* This is due to a fault on this train.
* This is due to more trains than usual needing repairs at the same time.
* This is due to congestion
* This is due to severe weather
* This is due to a fault with the signalling system.
* This is due to overcrowding.
* This is due to passengers causing a disturbance on this train.

But "design for reliable performance in the first place" for TOCs means
* Having enough trains to run the services you schedule
* Have enough staff to run the services you schedule
* Only schedule services that will fit on the tracks

"Enough trains" may mean hot spares and / or multiple unit trains that can be reduced to single unit trains
"Enough staff" may mean a pool of operational-capable staff performing important but not urgent tasks on all shifts and geographically widely spread
"Enough tracks" may mean not cramming things in - a smidgin fewer, but a smidgin longer, trains.

I have no doubt (I know) that GWR are putting huge planning into December's timetable change; I really hope that enthusiasm for improved schedules (frequency and speed) in many parts of the network hasn't lead to any over-rosy views of how well things might work.  Teething problems no doubt - please, mr GWR, ensure you've got a plan to nip them in the bud so that we have not only frequency and speed but also the top passenger want of reliability.
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Adrian
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2019, 07:27:58 am »

Running a 'right time' railway is, of course, crucial to running a reliable railway.  With trains and crews used so intensively, turnbacks short of the final destination and skipping stops means cancellations for the customers affected.

As well as having the necessary resources available - trains, track and staff - the timetable needs to be designed as far as possible so that a 5 minute delay on one service doesn't delay several others, causing trains to lose their paths elsewhere, and spiralling knock-on effects.  Since Network Rail determine the fine detail of the timetable and make signalling decisions, I think they are ultimately the ones who must answer to this.

A good example of a line where delays quickly multiply is Bristol to Taunton due to the mix of fast and stopping services and single-track Weston Loop and junctions either end.  Often it is a late-running westbound Cross-country service to that starts the rot.  It passes Uphill Junction late, so a Cardiff - Taunton can't come off the Weston Loop, so the next Taunton - Cardiff is held on the main line because it can't go onto the Weston Loop, and possibly a fast service then gets stuck behind that.  And then the delayed Cardiff - Taunton has a short turnaround time and is consequently late coming back.

What can GWR do to avoid situations like this, when the factors are largely outside their control?  XC not running on time, insufficient pathing margin in the timetable, and a restrictive track layout at Uphill Junction?  It would be good to see CP6 used to improve resilience at points in the network where conflicts like this frequently arise.  Bristol East is another.  I think it's less about adding extra tracks but allowing untangling the paths that cross with each other.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2019, 08:12:36 am »


I have no doubt (I know) that GWR are putting huge planning into December's timetable change; I really hope that enthusiasm for improved schedules (frequency and speed) in many parts of the network hasn't lead to any over-rosy views of how well things might work.  Teething problems no doubt - please, mr GWR, ensure you've got a plan to nip them in the bud so that we have not only frequency and speed but also the top passenger want of reliability.

Graham - given that you're "in the know" in respect of planning, what measures are GWR taking to ensure that the endemic crew shortage situation is resolved in good time for the introduction of the new timetable, when additional services will make more demands of the workforce?

You've listed a number of potential issues which can jeopardise reliability, the first problems a business should usefully address are those which are within its control to influence, as the provision of adequate staff is 100% within GWR's responsibility and accountability I'd be interested in the nature of the ongoing planning to ensure that the requirement to provide adequate staff to run all timetabled services is going to be met.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2019, 11:06:57 am »

...
A good example of a line where delays quickly multiply is Bristol to Taunton due to the mix of fast and stopping services and single-track Weston Loop and junctions either end.  Often it is a late-running westbound Cross-country service to that starts the rot.  It passes Uphill Junction late, so a Cardiff - Taunton can't come off the Weston Loop, so the next Taunton - Cardiff is held on the main line because it can't go onto the Weston Loop, and possibly a fast service then gets stuck behind that.  And then the delayed Cardiff - Taunton has a short turnaround time and is consequently late coming back.
...

...and I'm sure we can all think of other examples where singling has led to a lack of resilience. When lines are singled to save money, their capacity is not halved - it is reduced by one or more orders of magnitude.
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eightf48544
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2019, 05:20:29 pm »

Good points by Adrian and Red Squirrel. Maybe before we look at squeezing extra trains onto the line, we should look at the existing service firstly to see what the  bottlenecks are that prevent them it running reliably. These are mostly well known and if possible iron those out. Secondly look to see if the capacity of the proposed extra train can served by lengthening one of more of the existing trains. These suggestions mainly apply to peak services.

Thirdly if it not possible to sort out the bottle necks then and it is not possible to add capacity to the existing service then Capital Works will be required, but hopefully with a god business case.

It should provided as has been said there is sufficient rolling stock and train crews be possible to slot in an extra train on  most lines in off the peak hours. Particularly first and last trains.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2019, 06:58:03 pm »

Graham - given that you're "in the know" in respect of planning, what measures are GWR taking to ensure that the endemic crew shortage situation is resolved in good time for the introduction of the new timetable, when additional services will make more demands of the workforce?

You used the word "ensure" there - and in the following paragraph too.  I know of a lot of activities which are being undertaken to address the issues, but their sufficiency to ensure  - well - I don't know how much they are doing everything they can / spare no expense, and how much they are taking steps but ruled too much by accountants to give the firmness of "ensure"ance.

There was been a major campaign of staff recruitment and training.  There are significant depot developments / improvements underway.  There is a plan in place that means that when the 143s go, there should be more Castles back from Wabtec. A plan for 769s to come in to send more turbos west.  Sums that suggest there should be enough  IETs.  And it's all written up (it has been for a while) with some waypoints to measure.   I'm sounding a bit like the GWR publicity machine as I write that up, aren't I?   But back to "address" - I don't know if it will ensure.

I'm also very much aware that GWR are dependent on so many others ... they are just one element in a complex and symbiotic relationship which both works and and frustrates, and makes for so much smoke and mirrors that where the buck stops is pretty unclear to us passengers .. and I suspect to some of the people who work in the industry too.

Let's see how it goes.  I really don't know.  But I know we've got some darned good people trying, and they're sometimes between a rock and a hard place in compromising, compounded by being swamped by the occasional - or not so occasional - unexpected wave.
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2019, 09:17:44 pm »

In terms of crew, I would expect the first couple of weeks to be stretching availability on the run up to Christmas, then as of new year there should be few problems for the first three and a half months until Easter, as there’s usually plenty of spare driver capacity. 

So for me it largely hinges on our levels of preparedness for Easter onwards.
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« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2019, 09:21:46 pm »

One looming issue is the reliance on delivery of the 769s and that they work when they arrive. The delivery date is drifting backwards, and there is a worrying lack of information on the internet about any of them having entered service on Northern or in Wales, both of which I think were due to have them before GWR. I may be jumping to conclusions, but are there problems with the conversion?

Will sufficient units be available to be held back on lease to cover any delays or problems?
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2019, 09:30:33 pm »

The December timetable plan can be delivered without them I believe, though it will prevent further Turbo cascades.  The Cardiff-Pompey 5-car service should still happen, but perhaps other trains won’t be as long as GWR was hoping initially.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2019, 09:33:19 pm »

The December timetable plan can be delivered without them I believe, though it will prevent further Turbo cascades.  The Cardiff-Pompey 5-car service should still happen, but perhaps other trains won’t be as long as GWR was hoping initially.

That coincides with what I heard.  Also heard that no 769s are out yet because of a glitch (or glitches) in the design process ... there is confidence that once it / they are overcome the actual work will be fast (at least in railway terms).
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2019, 09:04:46 am »

In terms of crew, I would expect the first couple of weeks to be stretching availability on the run up to Christmas, then as of new year there should be few problems for the first three and a half months until Easter, as there’s usually plenty of spare driver capacity. 

So for me it largely hinges on our levels of preparedness for Easter onwards.

Thanks II.

Anyone looking at the number of cancellations due to crew shortage today (more being added all the time it seems), and on a daily basis for at least the last month, will not be inspired with confidence of GWRs ability to get control of this issue in respect of the current timetable, never mind a new and more ambitious one.
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