The Infrastructure Manager for a railway is a statutory safety role. The Infrastructure Manager must ensure that only equipment which meets railway standards is installed on the railway. When no relevant standard exists, or equipment is innovative, it must be individually assessed and approved as safe. Crossrail’s Infrastructure Manager was named as Network Rail during the negotiations to set up the delivery organisation. At that time, Crossrail had no relevant expertise of its own to discuss this.
Crossrail is an innovative project when compared to mainline train services. It will operate mainline-sized trains on both the mainline network and in an underground network many km long. Much of the equipment required for underground operation will be new to the UK. Consequently relevant standards may not exist. Quite rightly, new safety approvals must follow thorough investigation, but Network Rail has no experience of operating underground networks. This was likely to lead to approval taking far longer than Crossrail could afford. Delays to the programme would potentially cost many £m. Crossrail decided that given its experience of operating the tube, TfL would be able to provide approvals much more quickly. As a result, a (politically-sensitive) change of IM for the tunnelled section was desirable.
I was tasked with developing the case for this change. I assembled a group of about half-a-dozen independent technical consultants. Each had experience of a different aspect of the railway (rolling stock, signalling, track, etc). I facilitated two whole-day workshops with the group. I kept them broadly focused on the output I needed while allowing them the freedom to explore widely on the way. We agreed specific supporting evidence which each of them was to provide for their area of expertise. I found a way to summarise the evidence and the discussions which the group agreed with but which also provided the basis for the argument that I needed to make. Finally I wrote a paper based on that approach which made a compelling case for the change. This was ultimately successful in bringing it about.
Subsequently, I led the planning for and initial stages of delivery of the transition to the new arrangements.
Key Success Factors
- Grab the problem and get on with solving it, even though you can’t see the way through it
- Have clear objectives, but not to the extent of constraining the answer you will find
- Use independent experts who will lend credibility to the case, let them spark off each other, and make sure they all have a chance to be heard
- Allow the discussions to be as wide-ranging as practical – you can’t see what may be useful until you have the whole picture
- Bring the necessary focus to the argument through the subsequent analysis
- Once you are clear about the main line of argument, use the experts to provide the necessary supporting evidence
- Find the compelling story and tell it as logically as possible