Managing our network
How we manage the network and respond to incidents
The Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express network is managed day-to-day by the team at Three Bridges Rail Operating Centre.
Known as “Control”, this joint team of rail company staff and colleagues from Network Rail and other operators such as London Overground oversee the day to day running of the railway. Picture an air traffic control centre and you will not be far off, with data and information coming in from across the network.
It’s this team’s job to take long-term plans, such as timetable design or the number of drivers available that day and turn it into the reliable, train services and the customer information that you recognise.
It’s also this team that coordinates the response when things are not going quite to plan like when an incident affects the railway, such as a signalling failure detected by monitoring technology. In this case, the team will coordinate with Network Rail to get technicians to the site and will re-plan train services, for example diverting services or issuing special stop orders for our station teams to pass to drivers to help reduce disruption.
Sitting right next to the service and incident controllers is our real time customer information and social media teams. Their job is to keep our customers up to date by updating station and train information displays, changing the information available in journey planners such as www.nationalrail.co.uk and providing information to our station colleagues so they can support customers in person.
You can find out more about how delays are managed at Network Rail.
How your stations are managed
Network Rail owns the UK’s railway stations and also directly manages major termini such as London Bridge. Other stations are managed by the train operator, so Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express staff manage two hundred and thirty six stations, ranging from major hubs such as Brighton or Gatwick Airport, to community stations such as Three Oaks.
The station team are normally the first people you’ll see when using the network, responsible for supporting customers with every aspect of their journey, from ticket sales, to supporting customers who need assistance accessing the network. Some of our team, especially at busy stations such as East Croydon are involved in train dispatch and you can often see them signalling to drivers as part of the dispatch process.
Ensuring that a train starts on time is the most important factor in improving punctuality and we use several tools and techniques to improve performance.
One of these is a data analysis tool called Quartz, named after the watch technology. Quartz was pioneered at East Croydon station, it enables our performance team to quickly assess tens of thousands of lines of data to identify individual seconds of lost time across a train’s journey. Especially for longer distance services such as Cambridge to Brighton, a couple of seconds lost at each station can quickly add up to major delay.
As a result, improving how we manage stations and ensuring that as far as possible, every single train departs exactly on time is key to our work to improve your railway.