Tracsis Transport Consultancy (TTC) were commissioned by East Midlands Railway (EMR) to carry out an independent operational review of Nottingham station. The regular late running of EMR’s Liverpool to Norwich service was perceived to have a significant impact on overall performance at this location due to the associated hourly shunt moves which need to occur due to units splitting from the West and coupling from the East.
The information provided as a consequence of this project will enable EMR’s Operations, Station and Fleet teams as well as the Network Rail Route Operations Manager to make an informed decision on solutions to the issues identified. Long term benefits of the solutions identified by TTC could dramatically reduce the amount of delay minutes incurred by EMR as well as providing a better end-to-end journey experience for thousands of customers annually.
“They are a very professional and competent business. It took ages at our end to approve the contract… patience was the virtue of Tracsis”
Michael Webb, EMR
“They have very experienced consultants who spoke through issues with us… the reports were always well presented; suitable for both techies and laymen”
Robert Taylor, EMR
Using TTC’s existing in-depth operational knowledge of the area, three main issues were highlighted for consideration. These being:
The actual impact on performance that the Liverpool to Norwich service has at Nottingham.
The impact that the maintenance plan at Eastcroft Depot has on station operations (particularly the number of platform changes required due to unit diagram swaps throughout the day).
What process changes can be implemented to consolidate the benefits of a tactical improvement plan which EMR and the DfT have agreed for the delivery of Liverpool to Norwich services (which will be split at Nottingham in December 2021).
To provide solutions to the identified issues, TTC firstly reviewed both the historic performance data and current process documentation, which underpins the operation at Nottingham and the delivery of EMR’s Regional fleet maintenance plan. TTC then undertook questionnaires and remote interviews with EMR, CrossCountry and Network Rail stakeholders, which provide a clear insight into issues and underlying staff cultures. TTC also performed a non-intrusive site visit to Nottingham station to view issues occurring in real time and how they were mitigated.
TTC found that:
The scale of capacity limitations at Nottingham station is due to the proximity of Eastcroft Depot, along with an intensive passenger train service which includes up to six planned shunt moves per hour plus freight trains which regularly stand foul of several platforms whilst driver relief takes place.
The detailed and labour-intensive planning of station workings in order to make the train plan work is essential and development of station planning software would streamline the task.
Any variation from the station workings due to late running trains (not just from Liverpool) or unit diagram swaps requires signallers to switch off the Signaller Assisted Route Setting Software (SARS) at East Midlands Control Centre. As a result of this, platform changes put significant pressure on operational staff and results in degraded customer service delivery. This in turn increases the risk of delay, the impact of which regularly spreads across the wider network.
EMR’s Regional fleet maintenance plan is mileage-based but their existing maintenance planning software does not facilitate mileage-based unit allocation. This in turn necessitates frequent revisions to the fleet exam plan, which results in unit diagram swaps at Nottingham in order to achieve the exam plan.
There is a need to address underlying issues with the consistent delivery of station operational processes and the management of passenger flows around the station.