Innovating to future-proof the Dutch rail network
ProRail plans 1,200 maintenance and construction projects every year to ensure the Dutch rail network keeps pace with growing demand for services. But with the network at full capacity, limited slots for maintenance available and contractors experiencing a shortage of labour, ProRail needed innovative thinking to solve these challenges.
ProRail needed to build consensus across the rail ecosystem, balancing the interests of passengers, freight customers, regional track-owners, train operating companies and contractors. Our team brought deep rail sector knowledge and modelling insights to a year-long programme to find the best opportunities to satisfy these groups.
Using expert modelling, ProRail was able to unravel complex discussions and calculations around cost, disruption and resources. The work completed underpins new principles to guide maintenance planning and achieve fairer distribution of traffic disruptions across the entire rail network, value for money, and better use of the available labour force. The result of this innovative thinking will transform rail maintenance planning, helping secure the network’s future at the heart of a sustainable transport system.
- Used our deep sector knowledge to lead a transformative programme to future-proof the rail network
- Built trust across the rail network to win support for new ways of planning maintenance and railway expansions
- Unravelled complex disruption, cost and resource considerations to identify the best opportunities to innovate
- Turned insights from modelling and stakeholder engagement into practical principles for realising change
Innovating to future-proof the rail network
ProRail plans all maintenance and construction for the Dutch rail network. It faces a challenge familiar across the transport industry – how to schedule necessary infrastructure work in a way that is fair to all stakeholders, delivers value for money, and reflects the reality of labour shortages in transport sectors?
In the Netherlands, demand for passenger and freight services is already high and is set to grow by an estimated 30 per cent. However, major programmes, including upgrading the electrical infrastructure, addressing subsidence issues and enhancing safety, are necessary to future-proof the busy network. Each year, some 1,200 maintenance and construction projects need to take place.
To minimise disruption for passengers, work is usually carried out at night and weekends. But this approach is unsustainable – not least because contractors are unable to use labour resources fully and their technicians are moving to other sectors. Without change, there was a risk that work to maintain and extend the network would not get done.
Laying the foundations for successful innovation
Our experts led a programme with ProRail to develop an innovative approach that will transform the way maintenance and construction is planned.
New solutions would demand a fresh approach. This meant balancing the interests of everyone with a stake in the network: passengers, freight customers, regional track-owners, train operating companies and contractors. Working as a single team with ProRail, we assembled a working group representing all parties.
Finding common ground
Using a combination of workshops and exercises, our team set out to explore different perspectives and build trust. It was important to establish an understanding of the different cost, disruption and capacity factors that would need to be weighed against each other in any new solution.
Creating a model to find opportunity in complexity
The next step was to enable ProRail to test different scenarios against each other. The model makes transparent the factors used to inform maintenance planning decisions such as the difference in costs for passengers and freight alike, the loss of revenue for the rail companies and construction costs. This ensures everyone shares the same understanding of value. Our team then used the model’s outputs to guide discussions, enable stakeholders to explore new ideas together and agree on preferred approaches.
Our experts brought together stakeholders from across the rail network to collaborate on innovative approaches to planning rail maintenance.
We facilitated the building of a new model to unravel complex calculations on cost, disruption and contractor capacity.
ProRail leveraged insights from our modelling outputs to identify innovative solutions across the rail network.
Establishing new principles for planning rail maintenance
ProRail now has new principles guiding how different categories of maintenance and construction work should be executed. These principles included considering how the train-free periods available for work on the network each year should be allocated. For example, where night working is necessary, the principles recommend creating extended train-free periods of nine hours in preference to traditional four-hour periods. The guidelines will help ensure that work is planned in a way that maximises cost efficiency, spreads disruption fairly and leverages contractor resources fully.