Three Bridges Operations Centre (TBROC); Visit


NOTE: For confidentiality purposes this report has been edited.

A group of representatives from East Sussex local rail user groups visited the TBROC. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that the Operations Centre appreciates the passenger-impact of cancellations on the East Coastway (as against the lines with a more frequent service) and to impress upon them the importance of ensuring the new May 2018 timetable is delivered.

The following questions had been pre-submitted for discussion:

do the operators appreciate the practical impact of their decisions, and of changes to the published timetable?

why are decisions inconsistent?

why does priority seem to be given to Brighton services, given the service gaps relative to Brighton and the East Coastway?

with regard to the fast running of services, and the impact for disabled passengers, are they in contact with the disability helpline in order to provide a “joined up railway”?

why is there a general focus on Eastbourne in our part of the network?

what flexibility do they have in their decision-making?

The visit was not a straight Q&A session. It was a tour showing what each area does, how they interact etc. The questions were thereby rolled into general conversation throughout the visit – with lots of others thrown in for good measure!

It became very clear, very early, that TBROC had no realisation of the impact of the cancellation of the Ore > Victoria or Marshlink service on travellers across our area. The reasons for varying decisions can be many; state of the train, infrastructure issues, crewing requirements, passenger needs. Our call for some consistency and accurate relay of information was noted.

There is no deliberate bias towards Brighton, however the reporting under PPM is done at the major terminals. This will change from 01/04/2019 when RTR measurement comes in (across the entire UK network); from then all stations are equal in reporting terms, so short running and cancellation will have a double-whammy negative reporting impact. Our question as to how this would impact on scheduled connections was seen as a ‘challenge to be overcome’.
There was a suggestion from TBROC from that the priority should be ‘happy customers’ and that the financial penalty for a 2 or 3 minute late running train to maintain connections may be ‘a price worth paying’. Ultimately this financial decision will not be their call.

Every area has the ability to interact during the decision making. If a booked disabled passenger will be adversely impacted by a cancellation (etc) this should be taken into account.

Enormous effort is made to establish the root cause of any incident – ‘delay attribution’ – to identify any recurrent issue, operational errors, and the impacts of decisions as taken.
During peak hours there are industry fines of £192 per minute per train for late running, £2000 for an outright cancellation.

Eastbourne is a major passenger hub, train crew and vehicle-storing centre, therefore it is always in the best interests of the regional network to ensure trains and their crew get to Eastbourne and that any decisions are taken with that as a primary objective.

ANY decision taken during unplanned disruption has to take in numerous factors (see earlier) and each one has to be made on the merits as it occurs.


DRIVERS: despite the oft-reported mega-training-programme, net driver numbers remains an issue. Other operators’ remuneration packages are a major incentive and drain on staffing numbers.

OBS: There is a challenge relocating OBS during unplanned disruption. GTR are doing their utmost to resolve these issues.

INFO: All media feeds (social & mainstream) are controlled from a central position (we’ve heard this before). But we discovered that ALL UK operator info feeds to an organisation called INRIX – it is they who disseminate & distribute the information to TV channels etc. We noted that this can result in odd text.

DIESEL STOCK: The class 171s continue to be troublesome, with ex Scotrail class 170s being used widely across the two diesel operations to bolster service reliability. Over coming years a raft of stock upgrades / electrification schemes will produce a potential cascade of additional stock.

FOOTBALL AT FALMER (and elsewhere)
This requires planning and can be a major problem post-match; it is not always possible to hold crew and stock in the event of a late finish of a match. Whilst match attendees drift into games over a period, the post-match egress is a ‘big-bang’.

We noted that information on help points is not always clear as to what assistance can be given. It was confirmed by TBROC that SE stations (Hastings/Warrior Square) help points are answered by SE Control, who can and should pass to TBROC ALL Southern assistance issues; anything less is UNACCEPTABLE

TBROC in daily contact especially where GTR service disruption impacts on other operators, e.g. in our area at Ashford International, and to a lesser extent Hastings. TBROC operators maps ended at Bexhill (the boundary) but they are able to view from there to Ashford (unsure as to whether it is just view or whether the TB personnel can impact on activity).

On the East Coastway desk it was noted that the 11.17 Vic to Eastbourne was running 29 minutes late due to a problem at Lewes. The TB controller had spoken with the manager at Eastbourne and as there was a spare 377 unit stabled there and it was a new crew turn they were able to start the return journey to Victoria on time rather than 20 minutes late – let’s hope similar action helps our services in the future!

Issues with train access at Clapham Junction. This requires a specific follow up meeting.
Cooden Beach waiting rooms being unavailable when there are no booking office staff; not good during sequential train issues.
The whole difficulty around station lack of information was raised – cancelled trains could be indicated far, far earlier than going to 8 mins delay and then disappearing. This developed into a more general discussion about the operational limitations of RTIS. Trains indicate as ‘delayed’ if they have been standing at a timing point for 3 minutes.

The clear priority for the ROC is to maintain the timetable, and to recover services whenever necessary, rather than always stopping to think what the impact on passengers might be. Fair enough – they are controlling a large network where knock-on impacts can rapidly escalate.
But the lack of local knowledge iro passenger impact was worrying, especially as this has been raised with various GTR staff consistently over a period of several years; we are fairly confident that our message was well received and understood.


7th February 2018