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The UK Light Rail Conference looks for innovative solutions to improve the challenges of climate change brought about by the transport industry.


Head of Operations for Greater Manchester, Alex Cropper, told the conference attendees that Manchester’s key focus is to reduce their carbon footprint and generate cleaner air by reducing the number of cars on the road by 10% by 2035.  As part of this solution, the city’s aims to improve the Metrolink within Manchester, with a key focus on improving safety and minimising incidents as part of this strategy.  Currently Metrolink are ranked within the top 5 light rail services in Europe but the city has big plans to move this into the top 3 within the next few years.

Similarly, the Thames gateway which stretches from Canary Wharf in London to Southend in Essex experiences over 50 million vehicles per year travelling on their roads. Managing Director Gordon Pratt of Thames Gateway Tramlink is focusing on offering light rail solutions to resolve these problems as the transport infrastructure is poor and air pollution is very high.

As well as the challenges facing the cities the conference also provided insight into some of the innovative solutions that are being offered for light rail.

I spoke about how developmental competence management is the future for light rail to improve the performance of drivers, improve visibility and confidence for light rail operators, to reduce incident rates and eliminate a lot of the costs from light rail business. I also shared insights into how Tram Operations Limited are using the platform.  Andy Wallace from Tram Operations Ltd said following their experience, “The level of dynamic risk is greater on a tramway than on heavy rail. Trams operate in both segregated and mixed traffic environments and as such our drivers find their trams regularly surrounded by pedestrians, cars and bicycles. We use the national occupational standards to evaluate our driver performance, but we wanted to strengthen our risk controls and felt electronic competence management was the right solution for our organisation.”

We also heard from UKTram who are focused on sharing best practice across the industry and are actively involved in proactively identifying innovative solutions for the industry on behalf of their members.  David Keay and Laura Reardon shared some insights into the work they are doing with the heads of safety to develop a risk model that integrates with ORR RM3 processes. This has already been rolled out on Manchester Metrolink and is now being scheduled for 8 other regions.

Industry consultant Ian Rowe shared the findings of their latest report which looked at solutions to ‘reduce the likelihood of serious accidents due to tram drivers becoming inattentive because of fatigue or other effects’. They have explored technologies such as wearables, facial recognition and task monitoring. Perclos (or facial recognition systems) was identified as the most effective solution. The next steps are to undertake controlled lab testing via a simulator in partnership with TramPro. We look forward to hearing the final results.

All in all it was an excellent conference, well organised and a great spread of attendees.


Sally Brinkley is Operations Director of AssessTech, a technology and training company specialising in all aspects of Competence Management for the Railway Industry (both Light Rail and Heavy Rail).

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