UK Train Operating Company

Train Presentation Improvement Study

At a time where the focus on providing an excellent train service for passengers has never been greater, all parties which make up the rail industry and have an effect on achieving service excellence face scrutiny and evaluation. One aspect of the service which directly affects passengers is train presentation. A UK Train Operating Company (TOC), was concerned about its low scores from the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) train presentation measures and required an independent investigation into the possible causes. IPEX was commissioned to conduct a complete review of maintenance practices which included analysing operational data, interviewing key employees, and evaluating standard processes, with the end goal of determining the critical issues affecting performance and presenting recommendations for improvement.


A number of factors had come together through the franchise to impact adversely on the upkeep and cleanliness of the TOC’s fleet, including poor service reliability reducing available time for turnaround cleaning at stations, and the May 2018 timetable change which significantly reduced daytime access to units for cleaning. Declining customer survey data suggested a low score for the fleet in the upcoming Autumn 2018 NRPS, which had potential to pull the overall Service Quality Regime (SQR) score below the franchise threshold and trigger penalty payments to the Department for Transport (DfT). It was clear to the TOC that action needed to be taken, and a strategy was required to bring about an improvement.


IPEX mobilised an expert team and deployed a quantitative review work stream and a qualitative review work stream. For the quantitative review, IPEX analysed TOC train cleaning delivery data to provide a true picture of the impact of the timetable change. This could then be quantified in ‘opportunities lost’ and cleaning time lost on depot. By studying the weightings of key measures from NRPS and the internally driven ongoing condition-based train quality survey (CTQS) which together make up SQR, the team was able to highlight the critical areas which would provide an uplift in scores. IPEX examined the timetable to determine cleaning opportunties for units factoring in the constraints of geography, technical requirements, and resources, throughout the operating day. In addition, by using NRPS data, the team benchmarked our client against competitors to understand the possible wider trends in the region. The qualitative review involved evaluations of key cleaning locations, discussions with members of the Train Presentation Management Team, assessments of units in service, and engaging with cleaning staff. This enabled the team to gain an understanding of the main day-to-day issues. Finally, IPEX drew together the findings of both review work streams to triangulate the significant issues and deducethe key barriers to successful cleaning delivery. This culminated in a detailed report for the TOC management team explaining the findings and outlining recommendations to drive improvement.


The dual-assessment of the TOC’s practices and operational data formed a comprehensive investigation into the factors affecting train presentation. IPEX found that the key issues included resources in the wrong location, underutilised depots due to the timetable change, insufficient volume of cleaning tasks delivered in relation to heavily weighted ‘interior cleanliness’ measure, limited team resource to develop processes and share best practice, and a loss of engagement between Train Planning and Train Presentation. Based on these findings, IPEX was able to offer both short- and long-term recommendations. These included improvements such as changes to diagramming of specific underutilised units, implementation of new and effective cleaning tasks, creation of a specific role to drive improvement, development of shunter-drivers, and better engagement with Train Planning. IPEX delivered an independent, unbiased, thorough, review of maintenance operations concluding with improvement plan recommendations that will bring real benefit to train presentation and contribute to providing an excellent service for passengers. The particular value offered to the TOC was that IPEX deployed an expert team, with skills aligned to investigation of the issues, prior operational expertise and knowledge of appropriate risks, that was able to target the right areas of the business and determine a deliverable and workable solution.