Effective collaboration on the modern railway

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 16

Jeremy Long 2 resize 635888194739085927Jeremy Long, CEO of European Business at MTR Corporation, which jointly operates London Overground and is the first operator of the Crossrail concession, explains how closer collaboration can improve rolling stock design and commissioning, using an example from the company’s Swedish operations.

Operating a successful railway is an increasingly complex task with sophisticated and independent systems of technology. Rail operators must work closely with a wide range of stakeholders in order to deliver a first-class service. While focusing solely on one’s own priorities may well meet the terms of an operator’s contract, collaboration with rail systems operators, infrastructure owners and rolling stock manufacturers is essential to get a service working efficiently as a system. Close relationships between all parties can help predict and prevent issues on the network before they occur, deliver a better service for passengers, and reap considerable rewards in terms of cost efficiency and added value over the life of a contract. 

Rail professionals will know that the design, supply and commissioning of rolling stock forms a critically important part of ensuring the highest standards of operational performance on any service, and this is one such area where collaboration with the relevant stakeholders is vital. 

In the last six years, MTR has successfully introduced more than 300 train sets with more than 1,500 carriages, coming into service in cities around the world – from London to Beijing and Melbourne to Hangzhou (this statistic refers to new trains and carriages introduced to service since 2009 on MTR’s fully-owned, subsidiary and joint venture railway operations –consultancy projects such as Metro Rio are not included). The focus of this article will be the recent introduction of a new fleet of rolling stock on the MTR Express in Stockholm, and how collaboration with our partners has led to a service currently delivering record scores for reliability. 

MTR Express 

Launched on 21 March 2015, MTR Express (MTRX) is an open access train service operating on the 455km route connecting Sweden’s two largest cities – Stockholm on the east coast and the major industrial city of Gothenburg in the west. 

MTRX was initially launched with four daily departures operating in each direction between Stockholm and Gothenburg. From August 2015, the service was extended to 48 departures per week in each direction, using six brand new five-car Stadler ‘Flirt Nordic’ trains, specifically designed for operation in the extreme winter conditions often seen in the Scandinavian climate. The required timescale for delivery of the new rolling stock was very tight; the trains were ordered in October 2013 and three were required to be fully operational for the initial services in March 2015. 

MTR Express 2

To reduce timescales and ensure the trains entered into service as planned, MTR deliberately selected a train design that already existed, had been previously built and delivered (in this case to the Norwegian State Operator, NSB), was fully homologated and approved for operation in Norway and had undergone the initial phase of in-service reliability growth. Through close collaboration with the Swedish Approvals Body, Transportstyrelsen, MTR established that extensive cross-acceptance could be applied to trains which have been homologated for operation in Norway and are then required for operation on the Swedish national network. 

The first of the six trains was delivered in October 2014, less than one year after the contract for the supply of the trains had been signed, following rigorous inspection and dynamic testing in Switzerland. The first three trains were handed over from Stadler to MTRX by end of February 2015, following completion of the type tests on the Swedish infrastructure necessary to support final homologation of the trains, and meet fault-free operation targets. 

Issues spotted early 

MTR liaised closely with Stadler and NSB to arrange for most of the technical tests to be undertaken in Sweden, using NSB trains that Stadler was in the process of delivering to NSB. This enabled issues to be identified early on, thereby preventing delays later in the process. For example, this testing revealed that snow would collect between the train body and shell, prompting a redesign of the front of the body. 

Given the tight timescales involved, it was also essential that training for the newly-recruited MTRX drivers could begin immediately following the delivery of the first trains. MTR also liaised with NSB in relation to the driving training programme, and prior to delivery of the first trains, arranged for the driver managers to visit Oslo for initial training in the operation of the Flirt train. 

All six of the trains now running on the line were delivered and taken into service on time. The performance of the fleet has been excellent, with 100% fleet availability consistently achieved, and no stopping failures recorded so far. Moreover, in just six months, overall customer satisfaction with MTR Express reached 93% and the service has a customer net promoter score of 59 – the best in its class (October). 

Ongoing collaboration 

Following the successful introduction of rolling stock, MTR continues to work with its partners to identify ways in which MTRX can continue to improve its operational performance and reduce the risk of infrastructure-driven issues as much as possible. An excellent example of this is the ongoing testing of a de-icing solution throughout this winter. 

212 MTR-Express-interiör-tåg edit

Together with the transport administration, Trafikverket, and Swedish-based company SolliQ, MTR Express has entered a partnership where we will test an ‘on the go’ de-icing solution during the forthcoming winter. Instead of just de-icing trains in the depot, we will now have the opportunity to de-ice along the route. MTR trains will run at 80km/h through three de-icing stations along the Stockholm-Gothenburg route, identified with the assistance of Trafikverket. 

By preventing the build-up of snow and ice during the service operation, it is hoped that the process will optimise maintenance downtimes of the new fleet. This pioneering project has never been attempted along the Western Main Line in Sweden and if successful, other operators along the route are likely to take over part of the initiative. 

With so many parties involved in the day-to-day running of modern railways, it is essential for the operator to collaborate closely with all. As the successful introduction of rolling stock on MTRX demonstrated, working together enables potential issues to be spotted before they develop into serious problems, and allows operators to implement initiatives to add value to a contract and ultimately improve services for passengers.

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