Client Story


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.

Rethinking how we plan rail maintenance and construction work is critical to sustaining future freight and passenger services. It really was a good thing to bring PA on board. They bring fresh thinking and clear analysis to complex problems. When we combine our sector knowledge and skills with theirs, we get great results.”
Programme Manager, ProRail

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.

Key successes

  • 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.

PA understood immediately the importance of enabling cultural change to ensure new ways of working are adopted. We’ve worked with them on projects with a cultural component before and they are particularly impressive on this aspect.”
Programme Manger, ProRail

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.

PA showed real skill in bringing together a wide group of stakeholders to co-develop a balanced solution. Without doubt, this will help ensure innovation is taken up across the rail ecosystem.”
Manager Business Control, ProRail

Creating a model to find opportunity in complexity

To balance the different components, ProRail had to quantify a value for each. For example, what was the cost of closing tracks on different parts of the network at different times of day and night? And how did contractor rates vary depending on when the work was done? How should ProRail calculate the cost of disruption to commuter routes and how did this compare to disruption to freight routes? We led a team of cost engineers and tender cost specialists to find the answers.
Involving stakeholders from the earliest stages of the project was key. It meant everyone understood the need to find approaches that balance different needs.”
Manager Business Control, ProRail

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.

Ingenuity Timeline

Phase 1 

Our experts brought together stakeholders from across the rail network to collaborate on innovative approaches to planning rail maintenance.

Phase 2

We facilitated the building of a new model to unravel complex calculations on cost, disruption and contractor capacity.

Phase 3

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.

The new principles co-developed with PA will bring radical change to the way we plan maintenance and construction works across the network. Ultimately, this will enable us to develop the network to meet growing demand into the future. Innovation will allow us to ensure both passengers and freight customers have access to safe, efficient and reliable services that will become an increasingly important part of sustainable transport solutions.”
Programme Manger, ProRail

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