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G-FORCE: Support for Operational Decision-Making

Most of the time, operational staff can draw on prescribed rules and procedures to keep the railway running. But what about circumstances that fall outside the Rule Book? And occasions when applicable rules would not deliver a safe outcome? Our work on operational decision-making can help you empower staff to make well thought out, timely decisions.

GB rail's exemplary safety record is due to conscious, ongoing investment in safety-driven improvements. However, a culture of adherence to rules and procedures can reduce flexibility and impair performance, particularly on congested parts of the network with a high volume of traffic. Opportunities to stop small incidents escalating can be missed when front line staff lack the confidence to use their professional judgement, and react in the most risk averse and restrictive way. The knock-on effects can worsen whole-system safety risk, and cause delays and cancellations across the network.

We have produced a decision making tool called G-FORCE and a supporting training package for frontline staff and managers. G-FORCE provides a logical, structured decision-making process. It will help front line staff and managers decide on a course of action when:

  • there is no rule covering the situation
  • the procedure specifies asking for permission or advice, but the responsible person can’t be contacted
  • more than one rule applies, but they conflict with each other
  • following the applicable rule would be either impossible, unsafe, or have overall negative consequences.

G-FORCE drew on input from operational staff and their managers to identify factors that affect real-time decision making, such as the role of managerial or cultural constraints. We also looked at how other safety-critical industries, including aviation, the emergency services and the military, empower their staff to make decisions. 

While G-FORCE can be an excellent tool to help staff make sensible, rational decisions, it must be supported by training and wider cultural and organisational change. For staff to make effective decisions, organisations must give staff confidence that decisions they make will be evaluated fairly, based on the process they used and the information available to them at the time. If you are working towards a fair culture within your organisation, G-FORCE can be an excellent tool to support operational decision making.

What would you do?

A train has overrun the station by one set of doors. There is no selective door opening and the train cannot reverse. The train is full and lots of passengers have luggage and pushchairs. Company policy is to open one local door, but is that safe given the circumstances? Using your professional judgement, can the incident be manged safely in a way that also reduces the performance impact?

Using the G-FORCE approach helps operational staff to make these kinds of decisions.  G-FORCE infographic

Get involved

G-FORCE is currently being trialled with East Midlands Trains and Network Rail’s London and North Eastern route. We are also providing training to other operators and infrastructure maintainers. Staff who have received the training are already sharing examples of where G-FORCE has had a positive impact. 
To find out more or get your organisation involved, contact Marcus Carmichael, Professional Lead, Operations and Performance.

Download the tool and accompanying training material at sparkrail.org.

An example of using G-FORCE

The control room contacted the on-call operations manager of a passenger train operator to tell them about an operational issue. The operations manager used G-FORCE to make a decision. 

  • Go/no-go - The operations manager knew why the rule applied but had an alternative solution that would cause less harm.
  • Facts - The door of an end coach on a high-speed train needed to be locked out of use. The train was full and passengers were standing.
  • Options
  1. In line with the defective on-train equipment (DOTE) regulations, put the coach with the defective door out of use.
  2. Keep the coach in use, with a member of on-board staff remaining at the door. In the case of an emergency the door could be unlocked and used for evacuation purposes.
  • Risks - Potential fr irate passengers and further overcrowding of other services.
  • Choose - It seemed a sensible decision not to follow DOTE in these circumstances, and to keep the coach in use with a member of staff present.
  • Evaluate - On reflection, the operations manager concluded that was the safest decision, in the circumstances.

Resources

Crew Rescheduling for Disruption Management (S271)
Registered
ATOC / Network Rail Guidance Note – Meeting the Needs of Passengers when Trains are Stranded
G-FORCE: a tool for improving operational decision making (T1135 Good practice guide)
 
Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our expert for more information
Marcus Carmichael
Tel: 020 3142 5506
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