Paul Stephen

Net­work Rail’s Wes­sex Route Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor BECKY LUMLOCK de­scribes her first year in the job to PAUL STEPHEN

Rail (UK) - - Contents - RAIL pho­tog­ra­phy: JACK BOSKETT

“Lumlock was never far from the ac­tion dur­ing the par­tial clo­sure - she could even be found hand­ing out free ice creams to pas­sen­gers, along­side col­leagues who had vol­un­teered to work ex­tra shifts.”

It’s fair to say that Becky Lumlock is one of the more con­spic­u­ous of Net­work Rail’s eight Route Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tors. Con­spic­u­ous in her gen­der, con­spic­u­ous in her re­mit, and con­spic­u­ous in the ca­reer path that has led her to NR.

Lumlock was the only fe­male RMD un­til Meliha Duy­maz’s re­cent ap­point­ment at Anglia. Mean­while, her Wes­sex route con­tains both Bri­tain’s busiest sta­tion ( Water­loo han­dles more than 100 mil­lion pas­sen­ger jour­neys each year) and one of Europe’s most in­ten­sively used com­muter net­works.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tor, how­ever, is that Lumlock is no ‘ca­reer rail­way­man’. Un­til Novem­ber 2016, when she joined NR, she had op­er­ated ex­clu­sively in the oil and gas in­dus­try ever since join­ing BG Group’s grad­u­ate pro­gramme in 1994 (see panel).

Most re­cently she was MD at Shell’s Dragon Liq­ue­fied Nat­u­ral Gas fa­cil­ity in Wales, where she was re­spon­si­ble for in­fra­struc­ture that sends out up to 7.6 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres of gas into the na­tional net­work per an­num.

Clearly well-versed in deal­ing with high vol­umes, she cur­rently has re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­fra­struc­ture that car­ries more than 2,000 trains per day and has 234 mil­lion pas­sen­ger jour­neys each year.

But con­trary to her lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in rail­way man­age­ment, Lumlock’s im­mer­sion in the world of oil and gas has proven to be her ace card - Net­work Rail is in­creas­ingly be­ing repo­si­tioned to em­u­late the strengths of in­fra­struc­ture man­agers in al­lied sec­tors such as this.

NR Chair­man Sir Peter Hendy, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Mark Carne and In­fra­struc­ture Projects MD Dr Fran­cis Paonessa have all pre­vi­ously pre­sented gas and oil as an ex­em­plar in­dus­try from a health and safety per­spec­tive, and from which valu­able lessons can be im­ported to rail.

Through Lumlock, NR can tap di­rectly into this ex­per­tise. She also pro­vides an in­ter­est­ing and valu­able out­sider’s per­spec­tive to an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is ea­ger to adopt more com­mer­cial be­hav­iours, and to be­come more out­wardly fac­ing in the search for third party in­vest­ment.

NR can there­fore only ben­e­fit from adding newer heads to the mix, as can a wider in­dus­try that Lumlock ad­mits has al­ready be­gun to feel like home.

“It was a re­ally ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity to come to NR, and I’ve loved it,” she tells RAIL.

“It’s also been very in­ter­est­ing to meet such a large num­ber of peo­ple who’ve told me ‘I only joined Bri­tish Rail for three months, and 30 years later I’m still here’.

“There’s cer­tainly some­thing to be said for the rail­way get­ting un­der your skin, as it makes such a big dif­fer­ence to so many mil­lions of peo­ple. And there aren’t too many pro­fes­sions you can talk about in that con­text.

“What’s been par­tic­u­larly helpful from be­ing in the oil and gas in­dus­try is the safety as­pect. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing more im­por­tant than peo­ple and pas­sen­gers go­ing home safe.”

She adds: “In my sec­ond week in the job I did my per­sonal track­side safety course, so that I could un­der­stand what the ma­jor­ity of my team face ev­ery day. The first com­par­i­son I can im­me­di­ately draw with oil and gas is that it’s un­usual to be di­rectly in the line of fire quite as of­ten as peo­ple are on our rail­way.

“But if we never put peo­ple in that si­t­u­a­tion we’d have to close the rail­way a lot more of the time, so for me it’s about keep­ing peo­ple out of that line of fire as much as pos­si­ble to re­duce the risk. And we can never rest un­til that risk is zero.”

Lumlock has al­ready had her fair share of risk man­age­ment, with the ‘Or­ange Army’ hard at work on her patch at Lon­don Water­loo - the sta­tion un­der­went a once-in-agen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity up­grade in Au­gust, when a par­tial block­ade took ten of the ter­mi­nal’s 19 plat­forms out of use for 23 days.

More than 1,000 ex­tra staff were de­ployed across the Wes­sex Route to as­sist pas­sen­gers dur­ing the three-and-a-half-week block­ade, while the sta­tion’s 275,000 daily users were ad­vised to use dif­fer­ent sta­tions, take hol­i­day or work from home.

NR also re­sorted to bring­ing in a tem­po­rary timetable, while Water­loo’s five for­mer in­ter­na­tional plat­forms were also brought back into use to try to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of the do­mes­tic plat­form clo­sures.

Lumlock was never far from the ac­tion dur­ing the par­tial clo­sure - she could even be found hand­ing out free ice creams to pas­sen­gers, along­side col­leagues who had vol­un­teered to work ex­tra shifts dur­ing the morn­ing and evening peaks.

Mean­while, be­hind the scenes, a 1,000-strong team from Net­work Rail and the Wes­sex Ca­pac­ity Al­liance worked more than 180,000 hours to ex­tend four plat­forms

and com­plete the nec­es­sary track­work to ac­com­mo­date ten-car trains, which will help to pro­vide a 30% in­crease in ca­pac­ity by De­cem­ber 2018.

Lumlock says the scale, du­ra­tion and com­plex­ity of the project pro­vides a strong bench­mark for the ex­e­cu­tion and man­age­ment of fu­ture dis­rup­tive pos­ses­sions on the net­work. This means her ex­pe­ri­ences will be in much de­mand from her fel­low Route MDs, to whom she is more than happy to of­fer sage ad­vice.

“There’s been tremen­dous sup­port from through­out NR, and a lot of em­pa­thy from other Route MDs who pro­vide me with a re­ally strong sup­port net­work. They are a fan­tas­tic bunch who each have their own piece of the jig­saw, but we try and put them to­gether the best we can.

“There are some fan­tas­tic lessons be­ing learned and shared from Water­loo, and that’s quite re­mark­able at this level of se­nior­ity, in my ex­pe­ri­ence. I’m shar­ing what didn’t go well as well as what did go well, such as the com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paign that was started very early on to warn pas­sen­gers about the dis­rup­tion.

“That in large part led to not hav­ing the over­crowd­ing and con­ges­tion that peo­ple were very wor­ried about. We also had ro­bust con­tin­gency plans in place with other stake­hold­ers that largely didn’t have to be en­acted, be­cause our pas­sen­gers lis­tened to the range of dif­fer­ent medi­ums that the cam­paign was run on.”

The up­grade pro­gramme was not with­out its hitches, how­ever. The hand­back on Au­gust 29 was marred by over-run­ning, caused by safe­ty­crit­i­cal sig­nal test­ing.

And while the sta­tion of­fi­cially fully re­opened at 0650, there was wide­spread dis­rup­tion dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour as only 14 of Water­loo’s 19 do­mes­tic plat­forms were ini­tially in ser­vice un­til later in the day.

Fur­ther de­lays were caused the fol­low­ing day, when Plat­forms 1-3 were briefly closed again for a track cir­cuit fail­ure. And a fort­night ear­lier on Au­gust 15, the de­rail­ment of an early com­muter train that had come into con­tact with a sta­tion­ary freight train in the sta­tion throat had caused 48 hours of dis­rup­tion - three plat­forms were blocked, in ad­di­tion to the ten that were un­der block­ade.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Lumlock re­grets the added dis­rup­tion. How­ever, she says it should not de­tract from the enor­mous amount of work that was com­pleted dur­ing the 23-day

What’s been par­tic­u­larly helpful from be­ing in the oil and gas in­dus­try is the safety as­pect. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing more im­por­tant than peo­ple and pas­sen­gers go­ing home safe. Becky Lumlock, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Net­work Rail Wes­sex Route

pe­riod, in­clud­ing 1,270 me­tres of track laid, 230 cu­bic me­tres of pre-cast con­crete in­stalled, and seven miles of new ca­ble.

“We’d have loved to have had the hand­back on time and to have gone from zero to 100% overnight, so we did feel some dis­ap­point­ment,” she adds. “But against the back­drop of what’s been achieved and the com­plex­ity of the project, be­ing three hours late was dis­ap­point­ing, but we should think about what was ac­tu­ally achieved - and full credit to the team that de­liv­ered it.

“It was a shame [to over-run] and it took the shine off what a great achieve­ment it has been. And yes, of course we would never have cho­sen to in­con­ve­nience pas­sen­gers as a re­sult of that, but it was an ex­tremely com­plex project.”

Look­ing ahead, Water­loo’s for­mer in­ter­na­tional plat­forms have now closed again be­fore they re­open on a per­ma­nent ba­sis in De­cem­ber 2018. Lumlock is look­ing for­ward to when Water­loo’s 30% ca­pac­ity in­crease will be fully re­alised, and a £ 800 mil­lion up­grade that be­gan in April 2016 span­ning the en­tire route will of­fi­cially be brought to a close.

“Longer trains are al­ready start­ing across the net­work, and there are more and more of them as we get closer to Christ­mas, which is great to see. By the end of next year, there will be the per­ma­nent re­open­ing of a fur­ther five plat­forms in Water­loo In­ter­na­tional. I think when that opens as a pur­pose-built and proper com­muter ter­mi­nal fit for the 21st cen­tury, it will be hugely ex­cit­ing.

“This is one of the busiest routes and the UK’s busiest sta­tion by some mar­gin, and the project we did in Au­gust is go­ing to help with a lot of that need for ex­tra ca­pac­ity.

“A 30% in­crease in ca­pac­ity means an ex­tra 45,000 pas­sen­gers in the morn­ing and evening peak, and so for us it’s very much about keep­ing our pas­sen­gers and staff safe while achiev­ing the best per­for­mance we can on a con­gested route where pas­sen­ger num­bers are ever grow­ing. That is the key chal­lenge that we’re keen to ab­so­lutely stay on top of.”

A 30% in­crease in ca­pac­ity means an ex­tra 45,000 pas­sen­gers in the morn­ing and evening peak, and so for us it’s very much about keep­ing our pas­sen­gers and staff safe while achiev­ing the best per­for­mance we can on a con­gested route where pas­sen­ger num­bers are ever grow­ing. Becky Lumlock, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Net­work Rail Wes­sex Route

Key to meet­ing that chal­lenge will also be the level of co-or­di­na­tion be­tween Lumlock’s team and prin­ci­pal cus­tomer South West­ern Rail­way, which com­menced its fran­chise on Au­gust 20 mid­way dur­ing the Water­loo up­grade.

She says that her team will work in close al­liance with SWR, just as it did with pre­vi­ous fran­chise in­cum­bent South West Trains. She also in­tends to set up a Wes­sex Route Su­per­vi­sory Board by the end of 2017.

Just like the su­per­vi­sory boards that were set up ear­lier this year for the Wales, West­ern and Lon­don & North Eastern routes, the board will be in­de­pen­dently chaired and fea­ture se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Trans­port Fo­cus and other train op­er­a­tors. NR has com­mit­ted to hav­ing them in place across each of its eight ge­o­graphic-based route busi­nesses by spring 2018, in or­der to bring track and train op­er­a­tions closer to­gether, and to en­cour­age more aligned de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Lumlock ex­plains: “We were un­able to be the first route to have a su­per­vi­sory board be­cause we had a ma­jor fran­chise change, but we’re cur­rently look­ing for an in­de­pen­dent chair­man and I’ll be li­ais­ing with key stake­hold­ers who would sit on that. I’d like to have ev­ery­thing in place by the end of the year.

“Right from day one of the new fran­chise we have con­tin­ued the al­liance with SWR, and the joint ex­ec­u­tive team that still meets ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing. To me that’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant, be­cause the first thing we talk about is safety and safety in­ci­dents. Se­condly, we talk about train per­for­mance, and then projects and growth.

“That sort of drum­beat ev­ery week with track and train to­gether is re­ally crit­i­cal, and we have four ar­eas in the al­liance where we have joint teams - per­for­mance, sta­tion man­age­ment, con­trol and plan­ning. Ev­ery month we also have a per­for­mance board meet­ing for two to three hours where we chal­lenge each other on our train per­for­mance im­prove­ment plans.

“But I can chat to them any time about how it’s go­ing with their crew and fleet man­age­ment. And like­wise, we chat about how re­newals are go­ing, and track faults, and what­ever else.”

If any­one had any doubts about Lumlock’s com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing both the Pub­lic Per­for­mance Mea­sure and over­all cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion on the route, her pay packet is now de­pen­dent not only on NR’s per­for­mance, but also that of her pri­mary cus­tomer SWR, which has been adopted as a key met­ric.

She cred­its Net­work Rail’s on­go­ing in­ter­nal trans­for­ma­tion and the greater level of au­ton­omy that now ex­ists at route level for giv­ing her the ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity to en­ter into such a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ar­range­ment, which should ul­ti­mately lead to im­proved out­comes for pas­sen­gers.

“When we set the route score­card, I said that I wanted to put SWR’s cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion on my own score­card which I get judged on, and on which my re­mu­ner­a­tion is based. This sent a very strong mes­sage be­cause they re­alised how se­ri­ous we are about how train per­for­mance is do­ing and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.

“With­out de­vo­lu­tion you couldn’t do that, be­cause you couldn’t have the score­card as fo­cused on your key cus­tomers. It’s on all the other Route score­cards, too, but with dif­fer­ent lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion cus­tom-made to what their cus­tomers want.

“That’s quite revo­lu­tion­ary for NR to have that sort of flex­i­bil­ity. A few years ago that sim­ply wouldn’t have been the case.”

South West­ern Rail­way 444040 ar­rives at East Put­ney on Septem­ber 4 in new SWR livery. The new fran­chise com­menced on Au­gust 20 and will run un­til at least 2024. EIKI SEKINE.

Becky Lumlock’s Wes­sex Route hosted one of the most prom­i­nent rail en­gi­neer­ing projects in re­cent years when Water­loo was par­tially closed for 23 days in Au­gust. Four plat­forms were ex­tended to ac­com­mo­date ten-car trains, as seen here on Au­gust 8. PAUL BIGLAND.

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