Directly Operated Railways – Fleet Deployment Plan
Directly Operated Railways (DOR) serves as the Secretary of State’s ‘Operator of Last Resort’ to step in and manage UK train operating companies in the event that they fail or a franchise agreement cannot be agreed. During the programme of single tender Direct Award (DA) negotiations with incumbent franchisees DOR was required to analyse each franchise and prepare contingency plans for mobilisation to step in to each franchise in the event that the DA negotiation was unsuccessful. DOR assembled and maintained an expert team of experienced rail professionals covering all of the key franchise functions and IPEX fulfilled the engineering, rolling stock, maintenance and depots component in each case. The availability of incumbent and additional / alternative rolling stock quickly emerged as a recurring factor in the contingency planning for the DAs and DOR asked IPEX to assemble an assessment of the UK-wide deployment of fleets – current and immediate future – in order to enable threats to incumbent fleets to be appreciated as well as the realistic potential for additional / alternative rolling stock to become available.
The Secretary of State (SoS) required DOR to achieve a state of readiness to step in to each franchise successively as the programme of DA negotiations progressed. This state of readiness had to be sufficient to ensure that the franchise operation could continue relatively seamlessly in the event that an agreement with the incumbent could not be reached, thereby ensuring that the SoS would be neither embarrassed by a high profile franchise failure nor prevented from securing satisfactory commercial terms through the absence of a credible alternative operator. Greatest amongst the potential risks for DOR if required to step in to a franchise would be a failure to secure the incumbent rolling stock or a failure to identify available additional rolling stock necessary during the DA period. In order to be able to gauge the threat to the incumbent rolling stock or to other rolling stock to which DOR wished to assume access DOR needed a comprehensive plan of the deployment of the UK fleets, the point at which each fleet became uncommitted and the most likely movements into other duties as a result of franchise changes or interventions such as electrification or other infrastructure schemes.
IPEX works extensively within the domains of franchising and rolling stock leasing strategy and deployment, but as a starting point we checked that there was no fleet deployment plan or strategy held by DfT or otherwise in existence and to which DOR / we could gain access, and we confirmed that there was no such plan or strategy. IPEX was able to draw on knowledge and understanding of the franchise operations, the rolling stock assets and their leasing, maintenance and servicing requirements in order to chart the deployment of all of the fleets and their contracted commitments. Then by overlaying known or anticipated interventions we were then able to make assumptions about changes to the deployment of the fleets. The resultant chart served as a snapshot of the deployment of the fleets and potential changes thereto and we were able to determine potential threats to fleets that were reaching the end of their current lease commitment on a given operation from aggressive ‘raids’ arising from elsewhere – or potential alternative or additional rolling stock becoming available due to its lease commitment ending elsewhere. The chart was of a form that would serve to portray the changing position as it was updated with new rolling stock deployment and lease information or other interventions and it could be updated relatively easily to provide an ongoing assessment tool.
The assessment of the deployment of the full UK fleet and the depiction of this deployment on a single chart as a point of reference served well to capture the timing of perturbations in the deployment and to indicate what would arise as either a demand for additional or alternative rolling stock on the one hand or as a potential source of rolling stock to supplement or displace a fleet approaching the end of its current lease on the other. This facility enabled DOR to quickly review the position for the multiple fleets on a franchise subject to a DA and hence to determine where there were significant risks for their contingency planning duty and potentially a requirement for direct engagement with the ROSCO concerned or with DfT to pursue a level of security for the fleet planning assumptions, against such external threats.