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Expert View: Ensuring operational, tactical and strategic competence in crowded rail environments.

Posted on Mar 15, 2017

London Bridge.jpg"The management of crowded space is simple and only made complex by ignorance..." 

Today’s rail environment is busier than ever with commuters, tourists, retail consumers, incidental travellers, event attendees and rail employees all jostling for space. To make passenger services as competitive as possible, operational, tactical and strategic competence in crowded rail environments must be maintained. This implies that the management of crowded space and the interface between the rail network and the metro, bus, tram, taxi and car networks must be as seamless as possible to avoid disruption, delays and cancellations in enhancing the overall journey experience.

To guide us through this complex but important area, today we bring you a guest post from Professor Chris Kemp CEO Mind Over Matter Consultancy and the author of recent reports on three major UK railway stations and Debbie Wright who creates and delivers hybrid rail based roles for the SES Group. For our two experts it is not so much about managing the crowd but managing the space that the crowd will arrive at, ingress into, circulate around, egress out of and depart.

As a result, it’s not so much about managing the crowd but managing the space that the crowd will arrive at, ingress into, circulate around, egress out of and depart from. Strategic personnel must deploy simple strategies which facilitate clear tactics which can be operationalised by a team on varying levels and of varying competencies. These underlying competencies lie dormant until they are required by the escalation of disruption or threat in a dynamic environment. 

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Education and training are a key part of this delivery ensuring that those on duty at stations are both au fait with the many and varied ways of dealing with passengers in crowded space and also with the delivery of a service which is interoperable in nature.

The four actors of force, information/intelligence, space and time are the key elements affecting the crowded space. The number of people in the station, on platforms, concourses, retail outlets and other transport interfaces create a density which is often heightened in situations where too many people are delivered into too small a space as well as at pinch points on the station concourse or at gatelines. This increased density is often found because of the perceptions of the passenger based on timetable expectations and their variance from the norm. This is further compounded by information on rail and other transport interfaces causing stress on the network and of course is focused in a short time period.

Phillipines station.jpgTo ensure the correct crowded space strategies, the managers responsible for their creation and implementation must stick to simple and focused strategic plans that can be understood by all concerned. High numbers of performance indicators which are often not able to be realised through the objectives set confuse the tactical and operational staff resulting in poor dissemination and sporadic delivery. This makes for ineffective and inefficient work packages and results in poor customer service and a rise in complaints. This concomitant rise in complaints linked to a fall in efficiency can be halted through in-service training, table-topping and live exercise delivery of crowd management scenarios. This ensures that all staff are aware of the simplicities and complexities of crowded space management. The biggest frustration is lack of communication and enabling the front-line staff to have immediate access to intelligence which would alleviate much of the frustration that customers have with the service.

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The very nature of Newton’s Law (Force = Mass x Acceleration) shows just how simple a solution can be both strategically and in practice. If the strategic decision were to reduce the density on concourses and platforms between set times at rush hour, then operationally by reducing the mass (the crowd flow) through various means and reducing the speed of flow through similar means this should reduce the force at the gateline and ingress/egress points thus alleviating the any normal issues strategically, tactically and operationally. In reality there are so many imponderables relating to the interoperability of the gatelines and the determining of when to open, or close these in relation to an incident and the knock-on effects on other transport stakeholders means that a more integrated approach to this activity is vital in the delivery of solutions to major issues at rail hubs.  

Waterloo Station.jpgUnderstanding human behaviour is an important aspect of this and also enabling a model of flows to be constructed so that those making the strategic decisions can identify pinch points, recurring issues and then deliver tactical and operational plans to facilitate safe management. In conclusion, pre-planning and operational/tactical delivery are two of the three aspects which need addressing. The third of course, is post debriefing, scrutiny of data and CCTV evidence supported by the incident log and then the tweaking and modification of the plans and risk assessments accordingly to ensure the dynamic delivery of the service. The management of crowded space is simple and only made complex by ignorance, lack of planning and the shying away of some of those in management positions who believe that the issue is someone else’s responsibility.

Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of SmartRail World's Editorial team and management.


About the Authors

Professor Chris Kemp, CEO, Mind Over Matter Consultancy. Chris Kemp was responsible for three recent reports on Railway stations at London Bridge, London Victoria and Birmingham New Street.

Debbie Wright, Operations Director, SES Group. Debbie Wright creates and delivers hybrid rail based roles for her organisation. Those in such roles are proactive in supporting the fluid nature of the contemporary railway station environment  


If safety and security is your focus then join Christopher Hart (Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board)  Mark Grant (Chief Information Security Officer, CSX), John O’Grady (Chief Safety Officer, Toronto Transit Commission) Sean Ryan (Chief Security Officer, MTA Metro North Railroad) and many more for your opportunity to meet these speakers and network with a wide range of industry professionals, attend our 7th annual SafeRail Congress in Washington DC.

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You may also be interested in:

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Topics: TransportSecurity

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