Capital improvements

Tube Lines, an award winning rail expert, is rebuilding the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines at an unprecedented rate

Tube Lines, the company responsible for revolutionising the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly (JNP) lines, assumed responsibility for the maintenance and upgrade of all the infrastructure on the TL JJ 06 blines on 31 December 2002 as part of the largest improvement programme the Tube has ever seen. Tube Lines has a 30-year Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract with London Underground, which is output based, meaning Tube Lines is rewarded for good performance and penalised for poor performance.

The Tube Lines consortium, which brings together some of the most experienced providers of business services with specialist skills in the rail industry, consists of two shareholders – Amey and Bechtel. Amey, which owns two-thirds of Tube Lines business, and Bechtel, which owns one third, provide some of the best project and operational managers from around the world.

In May 2006, the consortium’s excellent business structure was recognised when the enterprise won an award for business efficiency at the Docklands Business Club and East London Chamber of Commerce and Industry awards. The award recognised the substantial progress Tube Lines has made in transforming company culture, improving performance, introducing innovation and delivering investment.

Tube Lines also recently won an award for technology at the third London Transport Awards, which recognised the advanced, hi-tech equipment used by the company to maximise the efficiency of the JNP lines. This is another honour to add to recent successes, including a Five Star Health and Safety Audit Award from the British Safety Council, the Achievement Through the Use of IT award at the Quality in Construction Awards and a prestigious RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Award for 2006.

Business operations planning manager at Tube Lines, Tony Enevoldsen was happy to tell Railway Strategies more about what the awards for technology represent: “They recognise companies that have made an outstanding contribution to transport within London. Our handheld geographical interface system (GIS) is drastically improving the efficiency of maintenance and is contributing to delivering an outstanding transport system for London.”

Indeed, reversing the effects of decades of under-investment in the Tube is a huge task, requiring an injection of resources on a scale that London’s Tube has never seen before. Tony continues: “We are involved in a massive improvement programme, tripling investment to improve the JNP lines. We are essentially trying to perform open-heartbypass-surgery, while playing tennis. By this I mean we are trying to run the Tube better than it has ever been run, while rebuilding it at an unprecedented rate. Anything that can help us achieve this is fantastic.

“We are delighted to have received recognition for the hard work we have put in. The award for outstanding technological contribution illustrates our drive to challenge the frontiers of engineering standards, pushing them as high as possible to improve every aspect of our work. The technology is state-of-the-art – it really is the best around – and it significantly helps maintain, as well as rebuild, a service that people can be proud of.”

Tube Lines’ modern technology has revolutionised the way engineers are working. They can now monitor the progress of a project along the track via handheld devices. Immediate updates are available through an interactive map from which engineers can upload data from any point on the track. The system allows teams of engineers to make notes and annotate freely on the screen, speeding up the process of work whilst improving efficiency.

“If you look at any of our lines they are all performing better, both in terms of investment and operational performance, meeting the challenging targets they have been set,” explains Tony. “This is TL JJ 06 cquite pleasing actually, both professionally and personally. Communication between the lines has been improved by the technology, as all three lines are now visible from each device. Each system can detect activity and movements on all three lines, allowing individual engineers to see what is happening at any point. Faults can also be detected through the system using cameras, which are then sent onto the necessary people.

“Prior to transfer to Tube Lines, there had been decades of under-investment in the network and major upgrades were few and far between. We have changed this, but reform has been difficult given what we inherited. I don’t think it is necessarily obvious how poor the information we received about the system was. At the point of transfer it was very difficult for engineers to gain an understanding of the Tube. The Underground has grown piece-by-piece, bitby- bit, and some parts of the system are over 150 years old. It hasn’t been built in a planned manner, so there aren’t necessarily good records of what is actually on the line. We inherited this system, but the situation has been transformed and our technology is going some way in helping us gain a better picture of what is actually going on.”

He adds: “The key factor is that once you start looking at your data as a picture, you see things that you didn’t see before. The JNP lines are very complex and it is difficult not to get bogged down in all the complexities of the lines. Our handheld GIS allows us to simplify our processes and thus improve the overall running of the JNP lines.

“By utilising this GIS tool, we have effectively gone ‘live’ in that we are actually looking at the data as it happens in a clean manner. The GIS device has enabled us to cleanup our data, because users now see data as a picture. We took quite a big risk with this technology really, but, of course, our investment has rewarded us handsomely.”

Tube Lines has made great strides in innovation, which have contributed to huge improvements in performance. In 2003, the company created a state-of-the-art control centre, which acts as the nerve centre, reducing the time taken to tackle failures. “New methods of working have enabled us to drive up the rate at which track work has been done,” concludes Tony. “The JNP lines are all showing less faults than they did before, so clearly we have done something right. The technology allows us to look across all the lines and ask questions such as where are the oldest sections of track, where are the efficiencies, what are the fault ratios, what are the maintenance costs, and so on. We have had a number of visits from other rail companies around the world who are looking at putting in similar systems, highlighting just how good our technology is.

“We are trying to get the GIS onto the internet, which means all employees can get onto the browser and see our system at work. At present this information can only be accessed from our head office, so if we were able to put the information online it would dramatically transform how our depots operate. We have the handheld devices already so this really would be the final piece in the jigsaw.

“Obviously there are issues here in terms of security, so we have regular penetration tests. Our depots are already on wireless networks, which was another first on the Underground, so the infrastructure is in place. Security is not an issue as we have employed people to stringently test our handheld devices to ensure they are hackerproof, which, of course, they are.”