Improving KPIs in passenger rail operations


Operations directors in passenger rail companies often tell me they’ve implemented integrated planning. What they usually mean is that they’ve implemented technical integration: data is automatically pushed from one system to another.

Technical integration is a great place to start, but it isn’t enough. Real integrated planning goes beyond planning on a single platform. It’s about improving KPIs in passenger rail.

Here are a couple of questions that reveal whether a passenger rail company has real integrated planning:

  • Are your planners able to anticipate the impact their decisions will have on the planning challenges faced by colleagues further along the planning cycle?
  • Do they take those challenges into account to enable plans that are more efficient and robust?

This isn’t just about passing plans down the line – from timetabling and unit/crew diagramming, to dispatching and day of operations management. At each planning level, planners should be anticipating how their decisions will affect plans at the next stage. This is crucial because planners further down the line have to work within the constraints of the plans they’ve been given.

For example, do the timetables make it easier – or harder – for those creating crew/unit diagrams to create efficient ones? Do the crew diagrams consider whether the mix of skills required is actually available? Are schedules robust enough to minimize the probability of day-of-operations disruptions?

In an ideal world, planners would make it easy for colleagues further along the planning cycle to do a good job. This ideal world is possible with real integrated planning.

Real integrated planning not only helps planners create loops that are feasible and efficient. It also enables them to take preventative maintenance into account so their loops don’t overstretch the capacity of the maintenance department. This is rare. In my experience, unit diagrammers are simply unable to take maintenance capacity into account at the right level of granularity. Similarly, crew diagrammers have no clue that their diagrams may actually be increasing the probability of day-of-operations disruptions.

Real integrated planning isn’t about using the same planners to plan the entire operation. You’ll still have planners who work on the timetable. Planners who create the crew and unit diagrams. Planners who are dispatchers, and those who deal with day-of-operations disruptions. But the system will help them plan in ways that make the lives of their colleagues easier.

The effects of real integration will be seen in your KPIs. Greater efficiency. Fewer day-of-operations disruptions. Higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Real integrated planning is always about real results.