We led a team of academics and specialists to demonstrate how a whole system approach taking account of all capabilities  could identify innovative options and themes to deliver significant increases in the capacity of GB Railways. 

The challenge

Rail passengers are looking to go where they want to, when they want to, as quickly, comfortably, reliably and affordably as possible. As the railway network is becoming more crowded this is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to achieve, particularly if solutions including new infrastructure are selected.

The project looked to develop alternative and integrated solutions taking advantage of the predicted technology changes over the next 30 years to overcome route capacity constraints more cost-effectively.

Our approach

The Woking to Waterloo line is extremely busy at peak times with seven passengers for every four seats – a 60% increase in capacity is needed to meet the forecast demand for 2043. The high level objective was to provide solutions to double the current capacity, while minimising the need for expensive new infrastructure such as additional tracks.

It was a textbook opportunity to apply systems and creative thinking.

We developed a whole-systems methodology, based on backcasting and capability analysis, to identify the technologies to provide solutions to meet current and future capacity challenges. It defined anticipated operating scenarios, established capability gaps and functional requirements to select and prioritise technology development and  potential specifications.

The results

Our study assessed different operational concepts and functional requirements and provided an initial list of the technologies that could potentially deliver the desired results.

A preliminary analysis showed that the potential benefits of optimised operational concepts in delivering increased capacity are significant. We estimated nearly £4bn over 50 years on the Woking-Waterloo section examined.

The report is published on RSSB’s SPARK website, the results have been presented within the industry and have generated significant interest in the approach.

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