Developing the London Overground together

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Apr/May 2014

Peter Austin, LOROL managing director, heard about RTM’s theme of ‘collaborative working’ running through this edition and was keen to contribute. Here, he explains how MTR Corporation, Deutsche Bahn and Transport for London have jointly delivered such a successful service.

London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) was formed in 2007 to operate the London Overground Concession on behalf of Transport for London (TfL). Since then LOROL has been transforming the London Overground network, modernising the service, improving facilities and providing a better, safer and more comfortable experience for customers. In November we celebrate seven years of delivering TfL’s significant investment in the London Overground and our results show it’s a winner.

Demand for services has increased five-fold since the start of the concession, with a 13% growth in passenger numbers in the last 12 months alone. Today, LOROL regularly carries more than 450,000 passengers each day and is now one of London’s most popular rail services. Despite such significant passenger increases and the challenges associated with that, LOROL has maintained industry-leading levels of punctuality and customer satisfaction.

The London Overground is a story of transformational change and challenges, with each year being bigger and better. The last 12 months certainly reflect this, with a number of key developments, projects and challenges demonstrating just how far LOROL has come and highlighting its commitment to keeping the network moving while at the same time growing and developing to enhance the service for customers.

London Overground, a collaboration

LOROL was formed as a joint venture company combining two of the most reliable and customer focused railways in the world: MTR Corporation and Deutsche Bahn. Both companies have a reputation for delivering top-quality customer service and the London Overground compliments their reputation in this area. Both companies have members on the LOROL board, which meets regularly to ensure we continue to deliver on the concession.

As our client, TfL takes a very close interest in how we deliver the service. TfL employs a dedicated team to monitor and support LOROL in the delivery of all the obligations set out in the Concession Agreement. This team works alongside LOROL at our office and a very close partnership has developed. TfL is very informed and has very clear ideas on what it wants and how the service should be developed and is very keen to seek our views on how to make that happen.

LOROL’s continued success is testament to the support of our key partners – Network Rail, Bombardier, British Transport Police and TfL – and to the efforts of everyone who works for LOROL and their commitment and desire to deliver consistent service reliability and excellent customer service. Whether it’s a multi-party works to deliver our demanding station improvement programme, the strengthening of partnerships with Bombardier for train maintenance and fleet operations, or the partnerships that have enabled us to deliver projects such as the London 2012 Olympics,
we couldn’t do what we do without them.

Delivering a reliable service

Despite significant increases in passenger numbers and some difficult operational challenges at the end of 2013 – such as a freight train derailment at our Camden Road station and the St Jude’s storm – we have consistently maintained high levels of service performance and passenger satisfaction. Our PPM is industry-leading and we are one of the best-performing operators for right-time arrivals.

LOROL has worked hard to improve reliability year-on-year. LOROL has remained focused on operational performance, looking at areas where it can improve and innovate. For example, ill passengers were identified as a significant cause of disruption and so we
have taken steps to ensure that they are helped more effectively.

We have also successfully reduced the number of fleet technical incidents by 36% and fleet delay minutes by 53%. The latest ATOC
figures also show that LOROL has improved the number of delays per incident (DPIs) by over 40%, currently the best improvement in the UK.

Working closely with Bombardier this year, LOROL also introduced new train monitoring technology which logs performance data, enabling the fleet team to respond to issues quickly and reduce delayed minutes.

In addition, by focusing on our biggest asset – our employees – we have also created a highly engaged workforce. Evidence that this investment in staff is paying off comes directly from customers in surveys and feedback.

By putting people, both employees and customers, at the heart of the company we have created a rail service that is strongly supported by passengers both for the level of customer service provided and the value for money it offers.

Ongoing programme of station refurbishment

It has been a priority to improve and maintain station environments and ambience since day one of the London Overground and this underlines our commitment to creating a safe environment for passengers and staff, as well as the local community.

Ongoing investment in CCTV, lighting, painted finishes and clean canopies, as well as high-quality signage, have made a real
difference for customers, as have transport links such as bus stops, shelters, cycle racks and short-term parking bays.

Station refurbishment works completed at Willesden Junction last year also demonstrate what can be achieved on the railways when different organisations pull together, and further emphasise the successful way in which LOROL has encouraged multi-party working and improvement schemes on the network since it took over the concession.

The scheme was funded by Network Rail, TfL and the London Boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham, with project support from LOROL, along with the main contractor, Walkers Construction, and the local community group, the Harlesden Town Team.

Five-car trains on the Overground network

Demand for the London Overground has grown and will continue to do so as the population and employment in London increases.
This means the business always needs to look ahead in terms of the next service improvement or project.

While a fleet of new trains were introduced in 2009 and capacity has doubled since then, it is clear that more capacity is needed to meet this demand. It is therefore vital we work with TfL to further expand the railway whilst continuing to deliver punctual trains and first-rate levels of customer service.

The London Overground Capacity Improvement Project (LOCIP) involves extending most of our trains from four to five cars, increasing capacity by 25% on our electric routes to help carry more passengers and reduce crowding on trains. This will not just benefit our customers and stakeholders, but industry partners and the company as a whole.

This £320m project, funded by TfL, includes the improvement and extension of platforms at 25 stations and the delivery of an extra 57 carriages. Improvement works are also taking placed at Silwood sidings, New Cross Gate depot and Willesden depots, plus reconfiguring of signalling and track is needed also.

(RTM included an interview about this with Huw Edwards, head of programme delivery at London Overground, in our Dec/Jan
2014 edition)

The first five-car trains will be officially running on the East London Line by December 2014 and the project will be completed on the North London Line in 2015.

Extending the network

Partnership working was one of the key contributing factors to the successful opening of the extension from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction on the Overground network in December 2012, completing London’s first orbital railway for 128 years.

This extension means an increase in the number of trains on the network around the capital from 945 to 1,088 every day. TfL estimates that each year more than 12 million passengers will use the new route, which provides the south London area with
greater options for travel. Rather than rail journeys into London terminals such as Victoria or London Bridge stations, the new extension has given passengers the option of going around the city.

TfL also has ambitious plans to extend the London Overground over the next two years. In April, TfL confirmed that West Anglia services between Liverpool Street station to Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford will come under their management in May
2015 and will be operated as part of the Overground. This is great news for the London Overground network.

The future

LOROL’s recent success has fundamentally been down to our highly trained and skilled workforce and the strong partnerships we
have formed with other TOCs, stakeholders, industry partners and our local community. What best sums this up is our vision: ‘developing our railway together, proudly connecting communities around London’.

The most recent National Passenger Survey confirms that LOROL remains industry leading. Again we were voted as one of the best rail services in the UK with high scores in areas such as punctuality, reliability, cleanliness and helpfulness of staff. And with a plethora of awards for operational performance and European commuter operator of the year, it seems we’re on the right track.

Our work and commitment to deliver TfL’s vision for the London Overground was rewarded when we secured a two-year extension to operate the network until November 2016. The extension recognises the efforts the team at LOROL and our partners have made and the excellent operational delivery that has been achieved.

We have different challenges to meet in the future, but we are determined to do so whilst continuing to maintain our excellent levels of industry-leading punctuality, performance and customer service that the London Overground has become recognised for.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected] 


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