Shenzhen Metro has joined the Community of Metros as part of the Nova consortium. Shenzhen Metro (SZMC) operates Lines 1, 2, 3 and 5 in Shenzhen, which comprises 158km and 107 stations. Line 4 is operated separately by MTR, but is from a customer perspective part of the same metro system. The total system (including Line 4) is already carrying an estimated 600-700m annual passenger journeys.
The system first opened in 2004, and expanded dramatically by over 100km in 2011 (before Shenzhen hosted the 2011 Summer Universiade). The network has been stable since 2011, but there are several new lines under construction, with multiple new lines to open in 2016.
Shenzhen is a city of about 10 million in the south of Guangdong Province, adjacent to Hong Kong and less than 100 miles southeast of Guangzhou. Shenzhen Metro is a key part of what may be the most metro-connected megalopolis in the world – it directly links in two places to Hong Kong’s East Rail Line (the first time two Community of Metros members in different cities interchange!), and there are plans in the not-so-distant future to also connect Shenzhen Metro to the Dongguan Metro, which itself will connect to the Guangzhou Metro at its other end.
Shenzhen Metro is already working on plans to attend the next Nova meeting, which will be hosted by the Docklands Light Railway in London in September 2015.
Modern technology offers significant opportunities to improve station operations and the customer experience. At the same time this new technology is changing the nature of communications between staff and passengers.
This study found six key trends in terms of station staff organisation and management across the Community of Metros:
- There is significant opportunity for many CoMET and Nova metros to rapidly and relatively cheaply improve customer information and assistance using remote and mobile technology.
- Remote monitoring of safety-critical systems (i.e. watching an escalator on CCTV) is currently preferred to remotely controlling the system (i.e. turning an escalator on or off), even when that capability exists.
- Some metros are beginning to use mobile applications to support staff operations, such as allowing staff to monitor and control CCTV, make public address announcements, or look up asset information from electronic manuals.
- The application of mobile devices in station asset management currently focuses around inspections rather than more direct forms of asset control.
- Metros are not creating overarching policies for the deployment of mobile technology, but instead choosing to focus on the end objective of improving customer experience and business productivity with whatever technology facilitates the task.
- There is significant variation across the group in terms of hardware, software and practical use of devices.
We also identified five key trends in terms of station staff organisation and management across the Community of Metros:
- Supported by electronic ticketing and self-service technology, ticketing staff roles are evolving to focus on broader customer assistance and increased visibility around stations.
- There is increasing use of multi-functional staff across the Community of Metros, as well as an increase in their capabilities and responsibilities.
- Metros are deploying increasing numbers of roaming staff, across a range of station operations.
- Metros are dividing their network into a higher number of station control zones that each contain fewer stations, with benefits for local knowledge, staff camaraderie and teamwork.
- Metros increasingly have one staff member per group performing a single coordinating role, responsible for both customer services and assets across a small group of stations.
In April 2015, members of the Nova group met in Barcelona for their annual meeting. The group were also joined by CoMET members, Metro de Madrid. The meeting provided an opportunity for members to hear the results of this year’s research. In addition, each member gave a brief update on the current issues in their metro and any changes over the last six months, with opportunity to discuss and ask the advice of peers on relevant topics.
The hosts, Barcelona TMB arranged fascinating technical visits. The group were honoured to visit the security canine facility and watch a demonstration of the security dogs working. There was also an opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’ of the new automated line 9. This included an opportunity to meet and ask questions to the multifunctional staff who work on that automated line.
This research project examined metros’ practices when making the decision of whether to replace or refurbish ageing rolling stock. As annualised expenditure on rolling stock is typically about 20-25% of total operating costs, fleet investment decisions have significant impacts on overall metro costs. The focus of the study was to identify key factors and criteria in deciding to replace or refurbish rolling stock at end of nominal life, including the risks and opportunities of life extension beyond initial design life; to identify best practices in design, specification and planning of refurbishments; and to advise metros on appraisal and business case development process, parameters and assumptions.
Metros have been gaining increasingly significant benefits through refurbishment, and many metros (especially newer ones) are now undertaking or planning refurbishments to ageing fleets that are approaching or past their initial design lives. These refurbishment programmes are designed to extend initial design lives by as much as 15-20 years.
Cost saving opportunities of refurbishment
A key guiding principle is that refurbishment prolongs ‘more of the same’, as reliability following refurbishment tends to remain fairly similar. Therefore, only highly reliable fleets are usually worth refurbishing. A second principle is that most metros limit the extent of technology change attempted through refurbishment. So if significant upgrade is required, for example to enable unattended train operations, generally a new vehicle is preferred.
This case study has successfully assisted CoMET and Nova members in their decision-making. An Asian member needed to buy new trains when their 15-year-old line was extended and re-signalled. Findings from this report assisted with their decision to replace all the trains on the lines, instead of converting the older trains to work with newer signalling and then operating a mixed fleet. Conversely, Montréal STM used this research in support of a decision to refurbish their 40-year-old MR-73 cars and extend their life to 60 years. This is projected to save Quebec taxpayers nearly $500 million over the next 20 years. More information on Montréal’s decision can be found here.
The RTSC is recruiting to support the growth in our activities for transport operators and agencies worldwide, including the CoMET and Nova benchmarking groups. We are looking for people from transport consultancies, operators, transport authorities and government, as well as persons from outside the transport industry with the right skills. If you are interested, or know of somebody suitable, more details can be found at the Imperial College jobs site.
For most metros, a steadily growing passenger demand and revenue is important for future sustainability. This 2014 Nova case study captured good practice initiatives that members have implemented in their metros to increase the revenue they receive. This study also looked at how the regulatory and political environment affects a metro’s ability to implement these strategies and what methods were being used to measure and forecast demand.
Several of the factors that influence metro demand and revenue are to some extent within a metro’s influence, such as the quality of service, the provision of amenities within stations, and price. However, external factors tend to have the largest impact on demand and there is little metros can do to influence these, at least in the short to medium term.
Factors (Within and Outside Metro Control) Influencing Metro Demand
Members stated that fares policy, service frequency and capacity, infrastructure enhancements, and integration with other transport had the greatest impact on their demand and revenue. Yet, they also appear to be the factors that metro operators have the least control over. We argue that in the longer term, these factors can be strongly influenced by metros but clear and proactive engagement with all city actors such as the Transport Authority or Government is required.
Good practice metros undertake a detailed analysis of their market segments to understand both existing and potential customers. Separating out different customer segments and journey stages may enable operators to exploit previously un-tapped or poorly captured markets. Metro operators should conduct proper advance business case analysis to understand the overall expected revenue impacts and associated costs of proposed demand growth initiatives. Even if forecasting or modelling demand and revenue is done by the transport authority, metros can always benefit from having their own models. This enables metros to make a stronger case to the transport authority about the effects of a particular action.
The most effective strategies implemented by metros included:
- Bus feeder and bus integration systems which complement metro services and improve access to the metro;
- Short extensions, infill stations and station upgrades that provide strategic opportunities to improve access to new markets,
- Increasing off-peak service provision (evening, weekend and inter-peak) at low marginal cost to open the metro up to new or underutilised markets;
- Targeted fares products to encourage off-peak travel and fill underutilised capacity; and
- Integrated ticketing platforms and joint promotion that attracts alternative markets.
In November 2014, members of the Community of Metros along with Asian members of Nova came together for the CoMET 2014 Annual Meeting in Beijing by the Beijing Subway. This meeting marked the 20th anniversary of CoMET, and was the largest meeting in CoMET’s history with attendees from 17 metros around the world. The meeting was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Beijing and the Permanent Secretary of the Chinese Ministry of Transport.
Representatives from 17 world metros at the CoMET 2014 Annual Meeting in Beijing.
Throughout the week, attendees got to tour Beijing Subway’s facilities and observe operations, including visits to the Beijing Subway Rolling Stock Equipment Company, the Songjiazhuan Station (interchange for Lines 5 and 10 and the Yizhuang Line), the Operations Control Centre, and a ride on Line 10, which at 57km is the world’s longest metro loop line (and completely underground).
Following several years of massive growth, the Beijing Subway is now one of the largest in the world.
During meeting sessions each metro shared their latest updates, including information about recent major incidents. Imperial College London also presented the results of recent research on Station Management and Mobile Technology and Understanding and Using Service Performance Data as well as the results of the first ever international metro customer satisfaction survey that was conducted in 2014. The meeting also included the 5th annual CoMET CEO/COO Day, where presidents and directors from the metros gathered to discuss metro Key Performance Indicators as well as topics of key strategic and tactical importance.
After the main meeting there was a CoMET and Nova Asian Regional Meeting attended by 9 of the 10 Asian members of CoMET and Nova. Representatives from the metros of Kunming and Chongqing also attended as observers and potential members of the new third sub-group of CoMET for new and growing metros. The Regional Meeting focused on key topics for Asian metros, including cost recovery, rapid growth, and rescuing efficiency.
Public transport is essential to the success and feasibility of major events, and most major cities with metros are likely to host at least one large-scale event over a 15-year horizon. A 2014 Nova case study captured members’ experience with hosting a wide range of events and covered the entire timeline of hosting a major event, as illustrated below.
Metro Timeline for Hosting a Major Event – from upfront activities to lessons learned
The study found that early and active involvement in major event planning – which can include major capital projects – is very beneficial for metros, as is conducting their own demand forecasting. The long lead-time for most major events also allows for metros to learn from each other and visit metros hosting the same or similar events. Despite the short-term nature of most major events, metros gain the most value from retaining longer-term improvements, whether transformational or incremental.
The study demonstrated that while major events can present challenges to metros, many metros are using them successfully as opportunities to showcase their existing good practices, experiment with new ones, identify needs, and leverage funding.
Transport bodies across the world often use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); this work goes beyond standard KPI comparisons to consider causality for differences in cost efficiency. Using the rich data set gathered from the international Community of Metros, investigates why metro cost performance varies so significantly between different cities. The research showcases a successful partnership between RTSC researchers at Imperial College and practitioners at London Underground (LU). The resulting academic insights are being used to inform LU’s £10 billion efficiency programme.
Using regression analysis and panel data, for both the network and line level, we reviewed the main cost drivers of operating costs and its subcategories, including service operations, maintenance in various categories, and administration. For each subcategory we estimated expected costs for each metro given the metro’s conditions and compared them with the metro’s actual costs. This enabled us to benchmark each metro with “itself,” as if it behaved like the average CoMET and Nova metro. We also quantified the relative impact of each cost driver on metro costs.
Overview of the constituents of metro operating cost modelled by this study
The analysis revealed important factors that affect metro costs within and outside operator control, which conventional benchmarking can mask. For example, rolling stock maintenance costs were observed to increase by 2-3% with a 10% increase in fleet age. The effects of unit prices in labour and energy were quantified, offering a detailed understanding of the cost structure of various transport operators. Historically, LU unit costs have appeared higher than peers; this work helps LU understand why.
This research gives the transport provider (in this case London Underground) invaluable guidance as to how best to target performance improvement initiatives and optimise available funding to generate maximum value, given scarce resources and high demand for services. LU is using this research to validate their plans, and to determine whether efficiency targets are sufficiently stretching. For any public body operating in a political context, negotiating and working with stakeholders can be challenging. The research facilitates better communications with government and other stakeholders – for example by allowing the reasons for decisions to be communicated.
In September 2014, members of the Nova metro benchmarking group met in Delhi for their yearly management meeting, hosted by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. This was the first meeting for new members Oslo Sporveien, who presented an extended introduction to their metro. Excitingly, the meeting was also attended by the metros of Bangalore and Chennai, who were invited to attend as observers with a view to joining a new benchmarking group for new and rapidly-growing metros.
Meeting attendees agreed the work programme for the next year, as well as hearing reports on the previous year’s research including key performance indicator benchmarking, and the international metro customer satisfaction survey. In addition, attendees visited the metro and its operational centres to learn more about Delhi Metro’s operations in detail. The visit to the training school and simulator building was a particular highlight – here Delhi Metro is training staff not only for their own rapid expansion, but also for other new metros throughout India.
Nova members view simulators at Delhi Metro’s training centre
As a result of its rapid growth, Delhi Metro will be moving in 2015 to the CoMET benchmarking group for the world’s largest metros. This was therefore a valuable opportunity for Nova members to see Delhi’s metro in action. RTSC and the members of Nova thank Delhi DMRC for their efforts in organising an interesting and productive meeting.