Prioritising passenger service: the hidden costs

The top priority for rail operators is ensuring their trains run safely and efficiently. However, focusing on this objective above all others often leads to temporary fixes to avoid disruptions. By not addressing the root cause, this approach often leads to recurring issues and costly fixes down the road, but more significantly, this focus could result in a negative shift.

Focusing on service regularity above all else may foster a culture of short-termism with rail operators. This mentality can discourage innovation, proactive problem-solving, and investment in long-term infrastructure improvements. Over time, it may lead to complacency and resistance to change, hindering the organisation’s ability to adapt and evolve.

How a Negative Culture Creeps in

To demonstrate how a negative culture can creep in, we will consider three hypothetical scenarios:

HSE – Towards the end of an exam, an operative faces a major oil leak from equipment, resulting in spillage on a walkway. Is the priority to clear the spillage or finish the exam to get it back into service?

Materials management– An operative requires a component – do they get the part that has just been delivered and is easier to access, or do they use the component that has been pushed to the back of the stores and been on site for months?

Tooling Management– Tooling management across the depot requires enhancement, as staff always need bits of kit to complete their tasks. Is time and effort spent on treating the root cause, or is money thrown at purchasing additional tooling every couple of months, only for it to be lost or misplaced?

Most will know that the answers are – they should clean up the spillage, take the older material and start a new initiative. However, often, the path of least resistance is taken for its convenience and speed rather than implementing these proactive measures, and the “Service at all costs” mentality is achieved but at the expense of other considerations such as efficiency, cost-effectiveness, or even safety.

To be effective, rail operators need to strike a balance between safety, efficiency, and maintaining a regular service.

The Challenge

With most of us already stretched to capacity doing the day job, we don’t have the luxury of time to step back and question how we could work more efficiently. But, it is by challenging the idea of ‘service at all costs’ that will enable growth and continuous improvement, enhanced performance and efficiency. And this is where we can help.

We are experts in challenging the normal and asking the ‘why’ for our clients. We bring a fresh, new perspective to ensure your operations are as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

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