Realising the benefits of a stable, efficient train plan

By Richard Bailey, Technical Director, BaileyRail & Logistics

With many years of experience in short and long-term train planning, BaileyRail & Logistics continues to provide a popular, specialist and independent service to our customers. The recent purchase of state-of-the-art planning software ATTUne, has allowed us to further establish ourselves in providing our customers with timetable and train planning efficiencies, meeting demand and increasing our portfolio of clients.

We are pleased to say our customers are benefiting from independent planning, diagramming and resourcing efficiency reviews, along with the design of effective campaign flows, as well as support with Access Rights proposals and STP (short term planning) to WTT (working timetable) conversions.

Here I give a break-down of the different elements involved in train planning:

Long Term Planning/Timetable Planning/Working Timetable (WTT)

A robust long-term plan is the foundation of any operator’s baseline costs because the train path encompasses the resource requirements to deliver the service.

Train paths must be efficient to encompass overall efficiency in service delivery. This is achieved by using the latest technology to ‘time’ services accurately, reduce unnecessary pathing, whilst including C Stops (crew change) at key locations throughout the planned route.

Long term or WTT paths are obtained through the RSB (Rolling Spot Bid) process, where the operator bids for the path to go into the timetable. If a particular service is going to run regularly and has a long-term commitment from the customer, it is important to obtain ‘Access Rights’ for the service. This gives the operator and the customer a degree of security over the train path as it can only be amended by the System Operator (Network Rail) within an agreed window, for example one hour (30 minutes either side of the agreed arrival or departure time).

As part of the process, the operator, supported by its customer, will construct a commercial justification, to be submitted to the ORR for approval. The process has many stages and can take a significant amount of time but gives the operator and its customer the highest level of security to keep hold of the paths once firm rights are granted.

Short Term Planning (STP)

There are many factors connected to achieving a stable short-term plan, and one key area is the bid/offer process. Planners from operators place the bid, and planners from the system operator (Network Rail) offer or reject the paths. Both parties adhere to timescales, deadlines and criteria in relation to a ‘Train Operator Variation Request’, set out in the Network Code Part D and it is essential that these are maintained. Good levels of communication between both stakeholders throughout the process is also of great importance.

Naturally, bids placed by operators that are accurate, well planned and within the bidding deadlines, have a greater chance of receiving a mirrored offer.

Why it is important to get an offer close to your bid

Often, the train plan is the foundation for other aspects of service delivery. Train crew, ground staff, terminal and yard staff are often planned and rostered to the train plan, meaning path rejections or offers differing significantly from the bid, can cause major issues to other aspects of service delivery.

The Future of Train Planning

Whilst the above touches on some of the current aspects of efficient train planning, there are changes on the horizon. As Network Rail transitions to Great British Railways, reviews are underway to improve how the timetable is planned. At the time of writing, no new approach has been confirmed, however Network Rail continues to work with its customers to achieve an improved railway for all operators.

At BaileyRail & Logistics, we work with customers to review all aspects of short-term and long-term train planning, offering strategies, solutions and implementation. Achieving excellence in service delivery, starts with a stable, efficient train plan.

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From improved planning to greener alternatives, waste reduction to improved people performance and innovative ideas to market leading performance.

Creating a sustainable environment and looking after the people within it are at the heart of our values. To expand on our Rail and Logistic consultancy services, and to further cement our core values,  Bailey Rail are delighted to have entered commercial partnership agreements with Air Quality Monitoring experts One Sky and Renewable Energy experts Furlong Energy.