The Last Word

28.02.13

Complexity and capability

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2013

Tim O’Toole, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, explains how the complexity of the rail industry can be its strength.

Speaking at the DDRF’s annual conference 2013, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, described the group’s “quarrels” with the McNulty report and their work so far on the potential of alliancing to deliver an environment where top level decisions could be made for the industry’s future.

He celebrated the achievement of the industry in managing huge increases in passenger numbers, and highlighted Government support, which is expected to continue for the next couple of decades.

“Things have never looked brighter over the longer term. To have all those passengers while improving performance and safety is really something that I think all of us should be very proud of.

“We need to come together and work with the Government – it isn’t just dumping everything on the DfT and expecting them to come up with all of the answers. We need to work with them and start to work through the detail of Richard’s report (the Brown review). The trick is figuring out who that ‘we’ is, and that takes us to the RDG.”

Hiding complexity from the customer

He added: “We have an extremely complex industry. We have all the TOCs, the FOCs, the ROSCOs, the supply industry, and this complexity is only going to increase with devolution of NR. This complexity is often made a part of an indictment that ‘it’s all so confusing and complex compared to the simplicity and clarity of British Rail’. But in fact I think the complexity is a strength.”

Complexity creates greater capability, he explained, and suggested that successful enterprises manage to hide this complexity from their customers. O’Toole gave the example of the Oyster card in London, which is heralded as incredibly simple and intuitive for passengers to use, yet covers the most complicated fare system in any metro across the world.

The McNulty report claimed that the complex nature of the rail industry made it difficult to see where the centre is, leading to a loss of leadership.

The RDG was formed from TOCs, FOCs and Network Rail to meet this challenge, and provide a cross-industry group at the top level – where members could make decisions “that day, to change something on the railway tomorrow”.

Quarrelling with McNulty

The RDG has not agreed entirely with the challenges set out in McNulty’s report, including a “very huge number of the savings that could be attained through prudence in train utilisation”.

Further analysis made it “fairly plain” that there was “no way those numbers are attainable”, O’Toole said, leading the RDG to dispense this recommendation.

The group also “took quarrel” with the characterisation that unit costs have been flat throughout this period of passenger growth, pointing out that unit costs went up in response to “the nervous breakdown of this industry with Hatfield and Ladbroke Grove” and have been coming down ever since.

However there were many recommendations that the RDG did endorse, he added, including the need for the industry to work more closely together.

The power of alliancing

O’Toole clarified that the purpose of the RDG was not to collect “the smartest guys all in one room to industrially plan how everything should come out”, but to ensure there is an environment that enables the whole industry to work together, and with government to create future advances and commercial advantage.

The best example of this is alliancing, he said.

Early conversations with the RDG suggested this will allow greater collaboration and improvement across the industry.

“The reason why you don’t see more of them is because franchising has to get going.

“You have to know who your partner is going to be for the longer term, but as franchising does get going you are going to see more and more bi-lateral agreements, support partnerships to do greater and more things.”

Next month the RDG is due to gain permanent status and participation in the group will become a licence condition posed by the ORR.

O’Toole concluded: “It will be a place where the senior level of the industry continues to meet to address cross-industry issues and create the environment for us to go forward.

“We’re going to look at industry structure and we have to make sure we’re working efficiently.”

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

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Virgin Trains helping homeless people into work through coffee partnership

22/11/2019Virgin Trains helping homeless people into work through coffee partnership

Virgin Trains and Change Please has helped 30 homeless people become employed baristas. The train operator joined forces with Change Please ... more >
Greater Anglia brings in extra support for busy periods

21/11/2019Greater Anglia brings in extra support for busy periods

Office staff at Greater Anglia are being trained to help customers when stations are busy due to big events or disruption. Customer Action T... more >
Greater Anglia announces delays cut by almost half

21/11/2019Greater Anglia announces delays cut by almost half

Between December 2018 and October 2019, delay minutes for its Class 317 commuter trains, which run through Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Esse... more >
Metrolink contactless payment system hits millionth journey

20/11/2019Metrolink contactless payment system hits millionth journey

Transport for Greater Manchester announced today (20th Nov) that at the weekend Metrolink’s contactless payment system hit the million-jour... more >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >
Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive, announced as TCR Midlands speaker in Birmingham

24/06/2019Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive, announced as TCR Midlands speaker in Birmingham

Ahead of his appearance, Malcolm Holmes spoke with Rail Technology Magazine about what key leaders in the industry were doing to improve rail in ... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >

rail industry focus

  • 15/11/2019A workforce which reflects society

    Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Network Rail, joins us in the studio for the third episode of our RTM podcast, talking at...
  • 02/11/2019Monica Barbosa: Women In Rail

    Director of business development and communications at Xrail, Monica Barbosa, thinks women are missing out on exciting opportunities because the...
  • 01/11/2019The dangers of fatigues

    Working long hours, poor health, too little sleep, a demanding job and more can all make us tired and affect our mental and physical performance...
View all News

'the sleepers' daily blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >