As passenger numbers soar on London Overground services, Arriva Rail London’s MATTHEW BROMLEY, explains how the company is developing new technologies to enhance passenger management and address some of the issues of overcrowding
The start of the Arriva Rail London concession on 13 November 2016 brought with it a set of new and more challenging performance targets and metrics that were designed to help Arriva Rail London to deliver a great experience for its customers and ultimately achieve its vision of delivering a world class railway for London.
For Arriva Rail London and our client, Transport for London (TfL), the starting point for performance measurement and management on the London Overground is our customer. We are incentivised to do the things that provide the best outcomes for the 160 million passengers who travel around our network every year, whether that’s in normal operations or during times of disruption. This ‘incentive’ is based on a system of penalties and bonuses that are applied depending on our performance. And when it comes to performance, every route matters because punctuality and performance are now measured against all seven London Overground routes rather than under the previous concession when there was a single concession wide target.
Arriva Rail London is also no longer measured to the national standard public performance measure (PPM), but to a new measure called T-3. Here, any service that fails to arrive at its final destination within three minutes of its scheduled time or is cancelled, part-cancelled or fails-tostop is treated as a punctuality failure.
Ultimately, though, the customer doesn’t care what has caused their delay, they just want to be able to completetheir journey safely and on time, so Arriva Rail London is now responsible for delays caused by our partners and suppliers. This recognises that being joined-up with our network partners will help us all to deliver a more predictable journey for our customers.
Managing passenger movements and delivering our T-3 targets within the context of a growing rail network presents us with many exciting challenges that we hope innovation will help us to solve.
The scale of the problem
In a typical period for Arriva Rail London, 40 per cent of delays that we, as the operator, are responsible for causing (TOC-on-self delays) are attributed to boarding and alighting or passenger crowding issues. This is the largestsingle cause of TOC-on-self delays for the company.
Combined with this, on a normal week day, the London Overground carries 660,000 passengers, which is five times more than in 2007. Yet due to population and economic growth in the capital, TfL forecasts that by 2021/2022, the London Overground will carry 282 million passengers every year, which is an increase of 44 per cent when compared with passenger numbers in 2015/2016.
So in response to our current operating environment and expected passenger growth, Arriva Rail London is the first train operator in the country to introduce innovative technology that will enable station teams to direct passengers to less crowded parts of the train, helping to deliver a better experience for customers and improve train performance on the London Overground.
Orinoco 2 – as this innovation has been named internally – has been developed by Arriva Rail London in partnership with TfL, Bombardier Transportation and software developer Hacon. The project was made possible with funding support from the RSSB as part of their Train Operator Challenge 2015 (TOC’15) innovation funding competition.
Jon Fox, TfL’s director of London Rail, commented: “London Overground is already one of the most punctual railways in the country, with its popularity continuing to rise as it carries record passenger numbers. This new technology is another way we are helping to make passengers’ journeys better while at the same time improving the performance of our services.”
Looking beneath the bonnet
To make Orinoco 2 a reality, new Train Control Management System (TCMS) software was installed on Arriva Rail London’s fleet of 57 Class 378 trains, enabling the trains to transmit information on how busy each carriage is directly to station teams on their smart devices in real time. Employees can use this information to direct customers to less busy parts of the train which immediately helps to reduce station dwell times, improve train performance and deliver a great experience for customers.
Notably, station dwell times are heavily impacted by passengers being unable to board a full carriage and having to run down to another part of the train to board. So by being able to inform passengers about which coaches are quieter, they are able to move to a location on the platform where they can board with ease ahead of the train arriving, reducing the time a train is forced to wait in a station.
The Orinoco 2 system works by using the air suspension fitted to the trains; as more people board a carriage more air is pumped into the suspension bags so that the floor of the train is always the same height above the tracks. A sensor in the air bag measures the changes in pressure in the bag and the train’s on-board computers use this information to calculate how many people have boarded the train. This information is transmitted using the mobile phone networks to Bombardier’s headquarters in Derby where it is processed and passed to Hacon. Hacon merges the loading data with train running information from National Rail Enquiries and, at the touch of a button, Arriva Rail London employees are able to see a graphic of the train that clearly demonstrates how busy each carriage is.
Part of an innovation progression
Station assistant, Ashley Nwokorie, who has been involved in the testing and development of Orinoco 2, agrees that it is already having a positive impact on London Overground passengers: “Passengers can benefit from a more punctual service and a more comfortable journey now that we have this new information. It’s rewarding to be able to direct passengers to quieter carriages and help ensure they have an enjoyable commuting experience.”
Orinoco 2 system builds on its predecessor, Orinoco, which is the London Overground’s real-time information system and app for frontline teams that combines journey planning with disruption and service information directly from the London Overground control room. Orinoco has already improved communication during service disruption by ensuring that employees have easy-to-use, up to date information on the state of the rail network. Its strength has been that it is an intuitive information system that lets employees focus on passenger management rather than data entry and can proactively keep the network and our customers moving.
The next step
Although it’s still early days for Orinoco 2, we are already looking at how we can evolve the technology and use of loading data to further support passenger management. Plans are in place, for example, to test a new display unit on the London Overground’s East London Line which will share the real-time loading data directly with customers.
This trial project, which has been developed in partnership with Transport Systems Catapult and Open Capacity, is designed to use big data predict future crowding levels. Open Capacity’s system uses machinelearning – a technique for looking at patterns in largevolumes of data – to analyse real-time and historicloading data and other sources of information like time of day/year, weather and disruption information. This will empower passengers to identify less crowded parts of the train themselves and be another key factor in keeping the network moving.
Arriva Rail London is also exploring how we can use other technologies, such as video analytics, to improvethe accuracy of predictions, and whether predictive crowding can be used to support control decision making and event planning on our network.
One of Arriva Rail London’s aims is to be the most innovative train operator in the UK and to help us achieve this we have developed a Joint Innovation Strategy inpartnership with our client, Rail for London (RfL) to ensure we have a structured approach to delivering innovation and that our innovation funding and time is focused on the areas of greatest need.
A small annual budget has been set aside to invest in seed funding pilot projects, research and development and to support the implementation staff suggestions like Orinoco which originated in 2015 with an entry to our staff suggestion scheme. A cross-functional Innovation Panel also meets every month to share best practice and develop solutions to business problems and we are in the process of developing an interactive innovation portal to encourage more employee involvement in the innovation process and, we hope, develop more solutions to help with passenger management.