Event management practice to reduce capacity constraints

Used by millions of passengers per day, UK public transport systems are in some instances facing major capacity constraints. With demand forecast to rise even further, they might soon reach maximum capacities. Large events add to the demand on already busy networks and therefore need to be properly managed. There are many useful lessons to be learnt from this.

Major events such as conventions, sport competitions and music concerts can bring together at specific times tens of thousands of people who need to move safely, adding to the demand on an already busy network. Our experience of managing these type of events has given us insights into best practice on how to apply event management practices to station operations to allow for public transport systems to run more efficiently during times of disruption.

In 2015, for example, SDG seconded a team to manage the transport operation at Twickenham Stadium in London for the Rugby World Cup. With ten matches at the stadium and a capacity of 80,000 spectators, the team designed and managed a transport operation covering over two million trips (audience to the stadium and the unticketed demand to the fanzone).

Considerable planning ensured that the capacity of Twickenham railway station was not exceeded and safety standards were met at all times. Even with late kick-offs and matches finishing after 10pm, all spectators were able to return home thanks to the provision of additional capacity at nearby National Rail and London Underground stations, as well as supplementary bus services. In addition, an enhanced communications strategy, which included a web and mobile-based journey planner, temporary wayfinding signage and sufficient stewards, ensured that fans were aware of the transport options available to them and could plan alternatives accordingly.

Following the opening match of the tournament, a serious incident occurred at Twickenham station. A person accidentally fell onto the rail tracks and the station closed for over 45 minutes at peak egress while the emergency services acted. Trains were delayed for about an hour after the incident, which certainly caused difficulties with considerable congestion. However, thanks to the comprehensive contingency planning which took place before the start of the tournament, an effective strategy was quickly put into place to manage spectators so that they were able to take alternative routes, mitigating the disruption. Without this planning and the close liaison between the Stadium Control Room staff and TfL’s Control Centre, the situation would have been much worse, with many spectators unlikely to have found a way home that evening.

What happened that night, and how quickly event operators were able to react to it, show that detailed planning and effective management can help mitigate the impact of the incident on passengers. Past experience from large scale events can help to inform operational decisions for the future. By quantifying the extent of changes in user behaviour, such as using a different station or mode of transport, the extent of the impact on the site of the disruption and surrounding areas could be minimised. As part of the planning for the Rugby World Cup, SDG built a tool (TRACME) to forecast passenger demand at the stations likely to be affected by the tournament. This tool helped transport operators plan for additional capacity and identify when the capacity would be required before and after matches. Looking ahead, with today’s technology improving at a rapid rate, such demand forecasting tools could be improved with real time data, gathered from mobile phones or ticket gatelines to help operators implement appropriate management strategies and contingency plans.

SDG’s new Associate Director Russell Yell (see page 2) will be working with our Sports and Major Events team to develop this integration further – ensuring that frustrating transport delays are reduced and as much information as possible is provided to the travelling customer.


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