Posted on May 8, 2012 · Posted in Young Operators

IRO Young Operators welcomed Robin Gisby to give the inaugural lecture for this new group on 8 May 2012 at the Lansdowne Club, Mayfair. Robin Gisby, Managing Director of Network Rail’s Network Operations gave a broad overview of ‘Network Rail’s Role in the Future of UK Rail’, outlining some key considerations for the years ahead. Railways, Robin reminded us, will continue to grow and will never be a contracting/shrinking industry.

“Network Rail […] exists to generate outstanding value for taxpayers and users by continually improving the railway.”

Consider in the first instance the difference between price and value. The costs are still very high, but the aim is value for money. In other privatised industries a regulator sets a price but not a cost. There is a need to compare railways to other industries but to be realistic about how much things cost today and not 10-15 years ago. We were also reminded of the importance of taking a long term view when it comes to railways; we’re talking about asset stewardship for an infrastructure that’s already 150 years old. It’s an enormous investment to make but the longevity of the infrastructure is fundamental.

“Network Rail’s Vision (how we define success) is to be a leading independent British based infrastructure group that is internationally respected for providing transportation solutions that deliver outstanding value responsibly”.

Multiple organisations are doing the same thing and Network Rail welcomes the opportunity for someone else to have a go. In parallel, Network Rail is often consulted by other countries because its employees are experts in the fields in which they operate. Strategic themes of the organisation include: workforce systems and security, sustainability, people capability, partnerships with customers, public engagement, systems and technology innovation, performance targets. To retrofit systems to existing infrastructure presents its own challenge, as does taking signalling operation away from ‘lights on poles.’

“Network Rail’s role is to develop, maintain and operate rail infrastructure in partnership with our customers, suppliers and stakeholders”.

There are many trade-offs and competing priorities across railway operations, four of which being capacity, journey time, cost and performance. In order to maximise capacity and keep journey time as short as possible, there are short intervals between trains often travelling across the country at 125 miles per hour. There is huge pressure to shorten the gaps between trains but in order to do so you have to balance that against performance standards, measured among other ways by Public Performance Measures (PPM). Robin observed that the railways have delivered a lot more journeys, faster and more often than ever before, and we need to be careful how we present our performance.

Time between last and first trains can often be extremely tight, for example at Clapham Junction it can be as little as 3 hours of which a substantial amount will be set up and hand over time. Robin reminded us that the timescales in which Network Rail carries out many of its duties need to be even shorter.

Network Rail manages a portfolio of very different customers, for example passenger operators and freight operators. Alliancing is one way of managing the relationship between Network Rail and its customers, and these are most easily formed on single-TOC routes rather than multi-user routes. Robin considered the benefits of educating the DfT more about the trade-off between performance and cost. Network Rail expects to see improvements on long distance train operations, worth £2.5bn of business, but wants to feed into that improved service additional trains, increased revenue, and increase in passenger kilometres, Public Performance Measure and average speed. Network Rail should be planning for HS2 but must maintain focus on a lot of milestones that will be reached first.