Is a uniform fleet cheaper to operate than a mixed fleet?

TheWalrus

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I understand that with a uniform fleet, it is cheaper to train crew initially, but are operational costs cheaper to have just one class of unit in a fleet? And if so in what ways is this cheaper, in ongoing costs, other than initial and staffing costs?
 
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supervc-10

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One set of manuals, easier maintenance, fewer spares. Operationally makes things a lot easier to have a uniform fleet- any unit can do any route.
 

D365

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Operationally I would agree is easier but is it cheape?
Eh? It’s just been explained why it is cheaper.

A key example: you can buy more of the same spares, rather than having to order different parts for different rolling stock types.
 

PeterC

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The only thing that I can think of against is the everything becoming life expired in a very short time span.
 

edwin_m

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Operationally I would agree is easier but is it cheape?
Having to train crews and maintainers on one type of traction is cheaper than having to train them on two, and this is an ongoing cost as there will always be new crews and maintainers and probably some refresher training too.

Different traction types may need different spares and tools. To take a random example you'd need to buy two kinds of windscreen wiper to keep in the stores although the combined rate of use would be the same as if there was only one type. In the unlikely event that wiper changing requires a specialist tool, you'd need to buy two types of that tool, although each one would only be used half as much so would last twice as long so the rate of replacing worn out tools would be unchanged. There's a small ongoing cost in having a bigger store and a more complicated re-ordering system, but this type of cost is mostly one-off when the operation is set up.

Unless both fleets could operate all the diagrams worked from that depot, then it might be necessary to have more spare units (one spare of each type rather than a spare of one type that could cover for one of the other type). More trains means more leasing costs, more maintenance and more depot space - but not more crew or fuel/energy cost as total mileage and time in service would be the same.
 
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Snow1964

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Operationally I would agree is easier but is it cheape?
There are lots of savings (see posts above) due to being uniform

But your question about whole fleet is valid, if being same means your trains are uniform size, then potentially you are running excessively big trains on some services. So end up paying to move empty seats.
 

popeter45

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the downside from using a uniform fleet is it all has to cater to the lowest denominator (e.g. load gauge issues for certain branch lines) and adding specialities (e.g. Bi mode) for selected routes pushes up the cost for the entire fleet
 

37057

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Not sure this is such a black and white answer. I think it goes in the 'it depends' pile. For example, if a TOC that has only ran diesel can make use of a separate electric fleet, it may find that reduced costs of running electric could offset those caused by additional training, maintenance etc in the long run.
 

northernbelle

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It's a very good question and the answer isn't as straightforward as it might seem.

Sure, there are efficiencies by having a uniform fleet as already mentioned - crew training, spares provision etc.

But that assumes several things about that uniform fleet:
  • It isn't itself an expensive fleet to operate (A fleet of 20 x Cl185 is likely to be more expensive to operate than say 10x185 and 10x159)
  • That a part of a mixed fleet isn't substantially cheaper to operate than another, offsetting additional costs such as additional crew training, spares provision etc
  • That there isn't some design crossover between fleet types making traction conversion more efficient (thinking Class 150 to Class 156 conversion, for example)
  • That the mixed fleet cannot be inter-operated ... e.g. Class 170s being coupled to Class 142s to reduce mileage, paths, crewing costs
  • Fleet reliability. An unreliable uniform fleet can cost a lot more to operate than having fewer with more reliable types mixed in
  • Method of operation - types operated as DOO can reduce the overall operating cost even if they are of a different type
Operators use a formula to calculate the per mile cost of different types. This is based on energy consumption, maintenance costs, brake wear, crewing costs, NR track access fee, leasing costs and more.
 

37424

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A single fleet as already said makes sense in a number of respects, but if for instance a class 68+Mk5 on diesel has significantly cheaper overall costs when compared to an 802 on diesel on a mainly diesel route then it may offset some of those other cost disadvantages, so as others have said it may not be entirely straight forward.
 

Bletchleyite

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A single fleet as already said makes sense in a number of respects, but if for instance a class 68+Mk5 on diesel has significantly cheaper overall costs when compared to an 802 on diesel on a mainly diesel route then it may offset some of those other cost disadvantages, so as others have said it may not be entirely straight forward.
Though the reason for three TPE fleets was I believe, if I recall correctly, just down to the number of options FirstGroup still had on 80x, plus the theoretical plan that the Mk5as would have been in service about a year earlier than they actually were.

How many TOCs have a single fleet? Just Merseyrail? Maybe C2C as well? Avanti is close, though, just Pendolinos and Voyagers. Chucking the microfleet of 80x in upsets that, but they're a FirstGroup TOC and FirstGroup more widely has loads of them.
 
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Another point to note is that Airlines using a uniform fleet strategy choose it as part of a wider business plan. Ryanair only operate short haul European city routes on a point to point basis, so they use a single type of aircraft optimised for that. Most train operators will be running a far wider variety of service types though.
 

37424

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Though the reason for three TPE fleets was I believe, if I recall correctly, just down to the number of options FirstGroup still had on 80x, plus the theoretical plan that the Mk5as would have been in service about a year earlier than they actually were.
Yes Indeed however I have no idea whether operating 68's is cheaper than operating 802's on the Scarborough & Redcar routes, it was just demonstrated as a possibility which might offset additional costs in other areas of having 2 fleets. In retrospect TPE might well have preferred just a fleet of 802's, given the delays to the MK5 fleet but that's getting off thread.
 

plugwash

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Avanti is close, though, just Pendolinos and Voyagers. Chucking the microfleet of 80x in upsets that,
My understanding was that the plan was for the 80x's to replace the Voyagers, so at the end of the transition Avanti would once again have two types for their WCML operations (plus whatever they get for HS2 if they are still the franchise holder by the time that actually happens).
 

hooverboy

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My understanding was that the plan was for the 80x's to replace the Voyagers, so at the end of the transition Avanti would once again have two types for their WCML operations (plus whatever they get for HS2 if they are still the franchise holder by the time that actually happens).
In that instance the extra selection of rolling stock is down to parts of their route coverage not being electrified,surely.The bits that are electrified it makes more economic sense to run on the overheads.

I think crosscountry are potentially in the same boat whenever their new stock is to be procured,but their non electrified sections they run on is far wider.The might run into range issues if the fuel tanks on the bi modes are a bit on the small side.
Certainly having all their stock as the bombardier voyager/meridian families should share some common parts between them and reduce crew training and maintenence costs
 

route:oxford

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Eh? It’s just been explained why it is cheaper.

A key example: you can buy more of the same spares, rather than having to order different parts for different rolling stock types.
Surely that doesn't matter in the modern railway?

With a full service lease, you wouldn't need to hold any stock as your rolling stock supplier does all that for you.
 

43096

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Surely that doesn't matter in the modern railway?

With a full service lease, you wouldn't need to hold any stock as your rolling stock supplier does all that for you.
But it still has to be paid for! The service provider doesn’t do the spares for free, they are costed into the price.

In any case, a lot of fleets aren’t on such contracts: in many cases they are on dry leases where the TOC is responsible for all maintenance including spares, day to day servicing and all overhauls.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Another point to note is that Airlines using a uniform fleet strategy choose it as part of a wider business plan. Ryanair only operate short haul European city routes on a point to point basis, so they use a single type of aircraft optimised for that. Most train operators will be running a far wider variety of service types though.
The most efficient airlines also have an upgrade policy which rotates older planes out of the fleet while new models are acquired.
This keeps the fleet young and more easily maintainable.

The railway, by contrast, thinks in terms of 30 years or more and often ends up with many sub-groups of the originally single fleet as they are modified over the years.
BR had a policy of dual-sourcing, so that the single Networker design was bought from both ABB and Metro-Cammell, with different components and spares.
The "uniform" class 158s came with different engine types, so did HSTs.
You only have to look at the chaotic way BR entered the dieselisation era to see what problems are caused by too many variations in types of stock.

Privatisation gave us another burst of small, incompatible fleets as the different TOC owning groups exercised their buying power.
So we ended up with problematic fleets like the 175/180, 458 and even 707 fleets.
Roger Ford called it Stanier-Gresley Syndrome.
The costs of all this fall initially on either the TOCs or the owning Roscos, but eventually it's a cost to the DfT and taxpayer.
 

43096

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BR had a policy of dual-sourcing, so that the single Networker design was bought from both ABB and Metro-Cammell, with different components and spares.
The "uniform" class 158s came with different engine types, so did HSTs.
As built the HSTs did not come with different engines: they all had Valentas from new. Dual sourcing on the HST fleet as built was primarily for cooler groups (Marston and Serck), traction motors (Brush and, disastrously, GEC) and brake equipment (Davies & Metcalfe and Westinghouse).
 

Alfonso

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There is always going to be a trade-off between the advantages and disadvantages of a uniform fleet. Fleet families, with commonality of parts, helps to a degree, but if everything always had the same parts there would be no innovation, and if there's a problem with anything that means there's a problem with everything...efficiency v resilience. The science and art is getting the mix roundabout right
 

a_c_skinner

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There must be a sweet spot where your fleet is not identical but is compatible unit for unit (like the Sprinter family) and is all the same gauge so passed for all your routes. As up thread we are in a really precarious situation with loads and loads of small fleets. As above TPE's procurement will come back to bite.
 

Whisky Papa

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A few years ago, I spent some time creating the weekly STP unit diagrams for the original Northern franchise - well, the western portion of it anyway. The mixed DMU fleet was a nightmare to balance up some weeks, as overnight engineering possessions would result in last trains being cancelled that did not have the same formation. For example, the last Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool via Warrington Centra might be a 150+156, but the last Liverpool to Manchester was 142+142, so when these services were both cancelled due to engineering work, the depots at each end had the "wrong" units for their morning turnout. There were usually options for fixing these imbalances, but sometimes there was no option but to turn out a different class of unit the following morning, so commuters used to getting a 150 found themselves with a 142 for four mornings running.

Many hours of management time could have been saved if the fleet had been more consistent, although I also think that better LTP diagramming might have avoided situations like the one described above in the first place.
 

Mikey C

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The old Southern Region had a VERY uniform fleet, the downside of which was that their rolling stock designs became a bit fossilised, with slam door Mk1 based Class 423s being purchased up until the mid 1970s still using the same traction motor design that originated in the late 1940s...
 

norbitonflyer

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BR had a policy of dual-sourcing, so that the single Networker design was bought from both ABB and Metro-Cammell, with different components and spares.
The "uniform" class 158s came with different engine types, so did HSTs.
As others have commented, not the HSTs as built. However dual-sourcing also led to two classes of 23m Sprinter (classes 155 and 156) and three of Pacer with different combinations of bodywork and running gear: initially Leyland/BREL and Alexander/Barclay, and later, after Barclay declined to take a second order, Alexander/BREL.

The early nineties saw a different reason for multi-sourcing as Regional Railways decided it didn't want to procure the same designs as Network South easts Networkers (classes 165/465 etc) and ended up with the 158s and 323s. (NSE's 159s were an exception, as the 165s were built to the more generous GW loading gauge and wouldn't fit the LSWR main line - the 159s were actually built as 158s to RR spec and then converted)
 

Mikey C

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As others have commented, not the HSTs as built. However dual-sourcing also led to two classes of 23m Sprinter (classes 155 and 156) and three of Pacer with different combinations of bodywork and running gear: initially Leyland/BREL and Alexander/Barclay, and later, after Barclay declined to take a second order, Alexander/BREL.

The early nineties saw a different reason for multi-sourcing as Regional Railways decided it didn't want to procure the same designs as Network South easts Networkers (classes 165/465 etc) and ended up with the 158s and 323s. (NSE's 159s were an exception, as the 165s were built to the more generous GW loading gauge and wouldn't fit the LSWR main line - the 159s were actually built as 158s to RR spec and then converted)
Until the Networkers all the "new generation" EMUs were single sourced, all the PEP type (313 etc) and Mk 3 based (317, 455 etc) were all constructed by BREL and their predecessors. I

It does seem that only DMUs were the main area where competition was encouraged
 

MotCO

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Having a single source for a fleet for uniformity could lead to a lack of competitive prices for new stock. If you always order from Siemens as an example, why would Siemens ensure that the next order would be competively priced?

Also, having a uniform stock should improve services for pasengers. How many times have services been cancelled since the crew at a changeover may not be typed-trained on the stock which they have to take over?
 

hooverboy

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Having a single source for a fleet for uniformity could lead to a lack of competitive prices for new stock. If you always order from Siemens as an example, why would Siemens ensure that the next order would be competively priced?

Also, having a uniform stock should improve services for pasengers. How many times have services been cancelled since the crew at a changeover may not be typed-trained on the stock which they have to take over?
this is why you would put out a bid to tender with a lot of stipulations in the spec with regards to servicable parts,interoperability and so on.

there would need to be a degree of competition between the vendors,but also a degree of collusion to make sure all the critical parts will mesh together.

in a way cpu manufacturers and telecom gear providers already do this.
in the case of the former, everything has to be able to run on the x86 architecture, and for telecoms it is the 3/4/5 gpp standards that all equipment providers must ensure their stuff is compliant with
 

MotCO

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this is why you would put out a bid to tender with a lot of stipulations in the spec with regards to servicable parts,interoperability and so on.

there would need to be a degree of competition between the vendors,but also a degree of collusion to make sure all the critical parts will mesh together.

in a way cpu manufacturers and telecom gear providers already do this.
in the case of the former, everything has to be able to run on the x86 architecture, and for telecoms it is the 3/4/5 gpp standards that all equipment providers must ensure their stuff is compliant with
Yes, but as stated earlier, would windscreen wipers all be specified as to type, manufacturer etc, otherwise you will still get non-standard parts in an ostensibly standard fleet.
 

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