Interviews

31.10.13

A whole-system approach

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Oct/Nov 2013

Phil Hufton, chief operating officer of London Underground, talks to RTM about efficiency and reliability.

London Underground has been improving in reliability over a number of years, and its success is down to a multi-faceted approach, according to chief operating officer Phil Hufton.

Hufton, previously LU’s chief asset performance officer, took on the role earlier this year following the departure of Howard Collins for Sydney, when the roles were combined.

Speaking to RTM in mid-October, he told us that technology is facilitating great changes, as is preventative working, both of which could see the Tube become one of the best performing metros in the world.

He was speaking soon after a major boost to Tube services came into effect, with Waterloo & City line trains running until 12.30am (six hours later than before) and more frequently, and the introduction of a 34 trains per hour in the morning peak on the Central line. Service frequencies were also increased for the rest of the morning and the evening peak.

Hufton told us: “It is about predicting future growth but it’s also about customer demand. People have different behaviours now and they want to be able to have options in terms of how they get around the capital. Passenger expectations are higher. Providing a later service provides that – it has increased capacity as well.”

Running more frequent train services is essential to meet London’s growing population, especially as 1.25 million additional people expected in the city by 2030. “That’s the size of Birmingham,” Hufton said. “It’s a huge amount.”

‘Always investing’

“The priority for us is delivering more capacity on the current network. It’s about running more frequent train services as well, but we are always investing.”

TfL is also boosting capacity by extending the network. This includes “a huge programme of work”, with new air conditioned S7 and S8 stock on the sub-surface lines, and planned new rolling stock under the ongoing Deep Tube Programme (one vision of how this could look can be seen on page 49), which TfL says will “achieve a standardised and generic design of rolling stock to enable higher volume procurement and greater operational consistency leading to lower whole life costs”.

Hufton said: “One of the problems we had in the Underground I guess was lack of investment, but whilst PPP (Public Private Partnership) did fail, it helped to focus attention towards investment. The new rolling stock we’re bringing onto the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines, those trains are now air-conditioned; we never had that!”

From a distance

Remote service monitoring will be installed on two trains per fleet of all new rolling stock to collect data on how the track is behaving while trains are in service. Automatic Track Monitoring (ATM) systems have already started to be introduced.

Hufton said: “It tells us all the dynamics of the track itself, as part of the predictive and preventative approach. We see assets that are degrading and that allows us to intervene before they fail, and helps to drive down maintenance costs.”

New technology is helping TfL to achieve and maintain better reliability, he said. “Technology is driving a lot of our behaviours; whether that’s with reliability – not just the condition of the assets, there’s a number of things that affect reliability; staff and customer behaviours.

“We tackled it on different fronts in terms of what might we do differently.”

This included training British Transport Police staff to manage people who fall sick on trains (pictured below) and partnership working with the Samaritans to look at reducing the number of suicides on the Underground.

A new approach to maintenance

The focus on reliability has seen TfL working to be able to respond and recover more quickly to incidents.

Moving from a reactive to predictive model was also important, analysing how assets are likely to perform and preventing them from failing.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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