Client: Network Rail
Who: Jake Clarke
When: 2019-2020
Contract Value: £400k

RPS delivered two projects of significant importance for Network rail in 2019/20 as well as assisting governance of the December 2020 timetable change. We manage complex programmes to ensure a state of continuous improvement. This was achieved using a range of tools, management styles and techniques to deliver the required outputs for Network Rail’s East Midlands Route.

RPS used a bottom up management approach to identify route causes in the maintenance teams failure to maintain assets to the desired standards. This meant meeting with frontline technicians, section managers and engineers to understand issues that existed, but shouldn’t on paper. RPS worked with continuous improvement manager Spencer Johnson to develop a state of continuous improvement in Network Rails’ Maintenance and Route Asset Manager (RAM) teams. This enabled delivery of a programme which highlighted issues staff faced in the OHL, P-Way, Off-Track and P&D teams. The programme identified issues as well as corrective actions to be taken. The programme was presented to the Route Director who was able to share the plan with Train Operating Companies (TOC’s) to provide assurance that a plan was in place to improve asset reliability. Two examples follow below:

  • Off-track cancelled possessions
  • OHL patrols

Cancelled Possessions

An issue was highlighted whereby the off-track section manager would plan and organize possession, only for it to be cancelled at late notice due to a higher priority works. The issue is compounded because de-vegetation can only be carried out in the winter months without spending additional time and cost on bird and bat surveys during the nesting season.

This was resolved, by re-organizing the depot seating areas so that Off-Track and OHL sat together and increased communications between the teams; which is important because vegetation removal accountability fluctuated between the two- dependent on the distance of the vegetation from the rolling stock. With increased communication, the planners of both teams were able to utilize possessions whereby both teams could access the sites together. This resulted in a reduced percentage of cancelled possessions and an increase in the “Time on Tools” metrics of the Off-Track team. During the Christmas possessions an additional 3 miles of vegetation was flailed due to efficiencies identified by RPS and actioned through this new collaborative approach.

Many other strategies were used in conjunction, such as bi-weekly team meetings between Off-Track and OHL teams, additional training, exploration of new plant and utilizing TOC camera footage to replace cab riding which provided the additional benefit of being able to pause footage and make a proper assessment. The end result was that by nesting season the vegetation on the East Midlands Route was in the best position for several years.

OHL Patrols

It was identified by the Section Manager and his assistant that OHL patrols were not currently an effective way of monitoring the condition of the asset. Several Route causes were identified behind this:

  • Changes to patrols following the Port Talbot incident
  • Lack of training
  • Behavioral issues within the team

Changes in Red Zone working had resulted in an unclear communication about when patrols, could and could not be planned in. This was identified in a discussion whereby there was disagreement in the organization. A stance had been taken where patrols were not being carried out in certain high-risk areas because there was an understanding this was no longer allowed. RPS Liaised with the Head of Maintenance (HOM) to gain clarification. A further meeting was held with the team and the HOM whereby example scenarios were used. Ultimately this allowed increased patrols and therefore better asset management at key sites.

Another key issue was behaviors, there was suspicion that measurements were not being carried out correctly to remove the need for immediate corrective action or planned works, ultimately this was leading to ineffective planning and therefore maintenance. Sessions with the frontline staff determined it was a confidence issue caused by a lack of training. This is because after completing the OLEC courses to work on Overhead Line there is no further requirement to attend a similar course. Staff were reluctant to complete some jobs because they are actioned infrequently, as a result they felt they no longer retained the knowledge to complete the task. To correct this, RPS met with the Internal Training Team and Section Managers to develop a bespoke five-day training course which focused on key areas of concern. A feedback form was designed so that guidance could be given to the Section Manger on which areas to focus when providing further training at the Depot. Funding was secured from the Route Director to pay for the training and materials and all 27 staff were booked onto the course over a 1-year period. The result was not just more effective patrolling, but more effective maintenance and increased team moral.