Category: Digital Solutions

Doncaster’s Bid to Become the New Home of the Great British Railways

Doncaster's bid to become the new home of the Great British Railways HQ

Last year the Secretary of State for Transport shared the announcement that an exciting new competition will be held to find a location for the new Great British Rail (GBR) headquarters, outside of London.

The home of GBR’s HQ presents a wealth of opportunity. Not only does it have the potential to generate new opportunities across the elected region, but it will also become a key hub for the wider industry, and a foundation for new ideas and innovation to flourish.

A significant 42 towns and cities have so far responded to the call and will be evaluated against six criteria to create a shortlist, due to be released later this month. These include:

  • Alignment to ‘levelling up’ objectives
  • Connected and easy to get to
  • Opportunities for GBR
  • Railway heritage and links to the network
  • Value for money
  • Public support

Earlier this month, Martin Gleadow, Solution Architect at 3Squared, attended a Mayoral Breakfast organised by South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, The University of Sheffield, and the Chamber of Commerce for each of Sheffield, Barnsley, and Doncaster, to promote the city’s bid to become the new home of GBR’s HQ.

The breakfast featured a panel, comprising: Lindsey Gladsby, Senior Vice Principal for Careers, Employer Engagement, and Recruitment at Doncaster University Technical College; Lucy Prior MBE, Business Growth Director at Trough-Tec Systems Ltd and Chair of the Railway Industry Association’s SME Group; Steve Foxley, CEO at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre; and Oliver Coppard as mayor of the region.

The panel shared their insights into Doncaster’s bid to become the new home for GBR, highlighting how Doncaster measures up against the criteria and how the bid is a bid for all South Yorkshire, with the potential benefits serving the entire region.

Insights were provided by Steve on the research and innovation work being done across the region, a theme heavily emphasised in the Williams-Shapps report which conceived GBR, before Lucy shared insights into the wider rail supply chain and just how many companies there are with rail expertise and connections in South Yorkshire. The panel session concluded with Oliver sharing his ambitions for South Yorkshire and how success for Doncaster in this competition will help to promote the area and show future generations the possibilities which will be open to them.

Martin commented on what the appointment of Doncaster would mean for the local community: “Doncaster has a strong rail pedigree and a great location. Should it be successful in the bid to become the Home of Great British Railways it will be a great boost to both the city and the whole of South Yorkshire, showcasing to the country what we can do, while attracting investment and creating opportunities and jobs for the region.”

We look forward to seeing where Great British Rail’s new home will be and seeing the transformation it will bring to our sector. For more information on how 3Squared supports the UK rail industry through its award-winning technologies, visit our product page here.

RailSmart Brand Evolution: An Insight

RailSmart Evolution Q&A

 As you may have seen on our social media before the festive break, we shared the exciting news that we are launching a new brand identity for our RailSmart suite of products. The evolved branding is cleaner and sleeker in its design, to keep in line with 3Squared’s drive to keep up with the evolving demands of the rail industry for seamless, efficient, and easy to use tools and technologies.  

To capture this change, we recently spoke with Patrick Handley, UX/UI and Graphic Designer at 3Squared, on what the thinking process behind this change was, and the intricacies behind the new branding:  

 

What was 3Squared’s main motivation for evolving the RailSmart brand? 

In a nutshell, we wanted to make the RailSmart brand more relatable, whilst giving it a simple, fresh, and contemporary feel. We wanted to make our products more attractive to both new and existing customers, within the transportation sector and potentially in other markets too. This aligns with the overall aim of helping 3Squared continue to grow and to enhance our reputation within the industry as an innovative, forward-thinking technology company. 

Alongside the design evolution, we have also begun a conscious drive to design our web and mobile applications with accessibility and ease of use in mind, based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Our inclusive design approach is led by collaboration; we consult with our clients to understand their teams’ needs, and configure the interface appropriately, always in line with current best design practices. 

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 What was the creative process behind the new brand assets? 

The brief was always for an evolution rather than a revolution. The process for creating the new brand assets, such as the logos and colour palettes, was simply to assess what we already had and build on it. We aimed to simplify wherever possible and made sure that the new assets aligned with current trends and best practices, whilst always keeping in mind our drive towards accessibility, relatability, and consistency. 

With regards to creating the new app names, the mantra here was to take a ‘Does what it says on the tin’ approach. Coming up with the new names was a complex process which involved lots of meetings and to-ing and fro-ing with different ideas. However, we had been aware for some time that new, existing, and potential RailSmart customers were getting lost in all the acronyms we have previously used to refer to our different apps. Therefore, creating a set of consistent, easy to understand app names was one of the key ingredients of the brand evolution and crucial in determining its success. 

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Was it a collaborative process or did you work to a brief with input from the the other designers and wider 3Squared team? 

I was responsible for creating the new assets, such as the logos, App Brand Colour Palettes, and decorative aspects for the new RailSmart brand, whilst working from a well-defined brief. I received continuous feedback and input throughout the process from other members of the Service Design Team, our directors Tim Jones and James Fox, and colleagues from the wider 3Squared team. This was invaluable in enabling me to create a body of work that not only fulfils the brief, but one that will also hopefully stand the test of time. 

Coming up with the new app names was more of a collaborative process and involved input from numerous people from different teams across 3Squared, including the directors. This was arguably the most difficult aspect of this work, requiring many meetings and ideas sessions before we came to a set of suitable names that we were all happy with, fulfilling the ‘does what it says on the tin’ aspect of the brief. 

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How have you married the new assets with the legacy assets? Is there a common brand link? 

The initial brief was always to evolve rather than rebrand, as we didn’t want to risk alienating or causing unnecessary upheaval for existing customers. Whilst there is no marriage of the old and new brand assets as such, the evolution process is very clear when you compare the new assets against the old ones. 

 

How do you think the new look will speak to current and untapped audiences? 

The new designs provide a modern, fresh, simple look and feel, as well as being more relatable in our brand voice. 

 

Are there any new tactics or measures you will be creating to evolve the brand further?  

From here, it is very much a process of implementation and in truth it may take some time before we can boast a full implementation of the new brand assets and accessibility features across all our apps. However, we are hoping to release a new website in the next few months, which will serve as the launch pad for our new RailSmart brand to the outside world. 

 

Finally, what do you hope the new brand identity will achieve? 

Ultimately, I hope that the new, relatable brand identity will help us to attract new customers for our industry leading software and support 3Squared’s continued growth. I also hope that the new brand assets will help to clarify our product offerings for new and existing customers, whilst also standing the test of time in taking the RailSmart brand forward over the coming years. 

James Fox, Commercial Director and Co-Founder at 3Squared, commented on what the design evolution means for the business: “We are excited to evolve our RailSmart brand in line with the changing needs of our customers. Well done to Patrick and the team for bringing our vision to life, and we hope that the new accessible, modern designs make an impact across the industry and to our customers.” 

Thanks to Patrick for the detailed insight into the new RailSmart design assets. Find out more information about RailSmart and its diverse range of benefits, here 

Rail Freight and PathPlanner: 3Squared Feature on Latest RSSB Podcast

3Squared PathPlanner Tool

Our very own Head of IT and Technical Innovation, Martin Gleadow features on the latest RSSB podcast alongside Director General of the Rail Freight Group, Maggie Simpson discussing all things rail freight and more.  

They will be conversing on the importance of rail freight, the capacity challenges that the industry is currently experiencing and how our solution, PathPlanner, can resolve these issues. Listen to their thoughts over on the podcast here. 

 There is no denying that rail freight is an essential component to the more efficient and sustainable transport of goods and materials across the country. The pandemic and problems with road freight has only highlighted this further.  

 Our PathPlanner tool can overcome capacity challenges and the obstacles stalling Very Short-Term Planning, enabling freight services to run more flexibly and efficiently. 

Find out more about PathPlanner and how it can solve your capacity challenges here. 

Creating a culture for innovation – what are the key ingredients?

3Squared Culture for Innovation

Earlier this month, 3Squared hosted its “Creating a culture for innovation” event with industry non-profit community group Rail Innovation Group (RIG) and rolling stock experts Porterbrook, at their office in the heart of Sheffield.

Delegates from across the rail technology space and the local business community attended this exclusive event, which explored the key ingredients that build a supportive, open, and creative culture. This is something that 3Squared are extremely proud of, further exemplified in its recent ‘Highly commended’ recognition in the ‘People, Skills and Diversity’ category at the Railway Innovation Awards 2021.

Speakers at the event included Steph Klecha, Head of Digital Services at Porterbrook Leasing and 3Squared’s very own James Fox, Commercial Director, and Martin Gleadow, Head of IT and Technical Innovation. During the event, Steph delved how Porterbrook are engaging the supply chain to drive data-led performance improvements for track and train. She also gave delegates an insight into the data that is available from Porterbrook’s nationwide portfolio of trains, which made for an informative session.

Martin delivered an innovation showcase on 3Squared’s Path Planner system, a comprehensive digital solution for the management, co-ordination, and dissemination of VSTP (Very Short Term Planning) scheduling.

Path Planner brings together expert historic network data from Open Train Times, with real time service performance to provide the industry with the de-facto freight VSTP management solutions. We will be exploring the benefits the Path Planner system is providing the rail industry with soon, so watch this space for further insights.

3Squared are proud to posses a culture that thrives on innovation, diversity and inclusion, which you can read about in more detail here. The company is built with the vision to:

  • Attract the best people and keep them happy, safe, and well.
  • Help its people to feel that 3Squared is making the best of their talents and is a place where they can thrive.
  • For its staff to be committed to, and engaged in, a special company that invests in them and rewards their efforts.

This vision forms part of the wider mission of the business, which is for 3Squared to be recognised as an employer of excellence, and its core values and inclusivity (of which is it proud to have a diversity programme), including: Fairness, Encouragement, Consideration, Transparency and Approachability.

Events such as the these further serve to reinforce 3Squared’s journey over the years and its position in the industry as an employer of choice. Since its inception in 2002, 3Squared have grown a great team and a positive working culture, with a view to expanding this further alongside its people, which remain at the heart of the business.

If you would be interested in further information on how to join the 3Squared team, get in touch with us here or by emailing [email protected]

The Integrated Rail Plan: What does it signal?

Tim Jones - BBC at 3Squared

On Thursday 18th November, the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) was released. Significant changes have been made, as unveiled by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, with the aim of providing a “rethink” and the ambition to “deliver rail improvements sooner.”  

Key highlights from the plan include:  

  • A full high-speed east-west line linking Manchester to Leeds will not be built, with the government insisting that faster train journeys would be delivered “earlier and cheaper” under a new £96bn rail plan.  
  • The high-speed rail network will go ahead to Manchester but will be curtailed at an existing east Midlands station, rather than run from Birmingham to Leeds.  
  • The TransPennine route will be improved mainly through upgrades, rather than a brand-new line.  
  • The HS2 line from London to Birmingham and Manchester will still be built.  
  • Funding is also expected to be put aside to explore setting up a tram service for Leeds and spend £360m on contactless ticketing, to 700 urban stations including 400 in the north.  
  • The government aim to start work on the above by Christmas, with £625m for the electrification between Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds and a further £249m allocated to electrify the Midlands mainline.

Shapps commented that the budget allocated is five times more than was spent on Crossrail and ten times more than was spent on the Olympics and the “revised plan will achieve the same, similar, or faster journey times to London and on the core Northern Powerhouse network than the original and will double – if not, triple – capacity on some services.” 

What does it signal for the future of rail in the north?  

The new plans certainly do trigger a step change in how the future of the digital railway will be delivered, how we better connect the UK and increase capacity both across passenger and freight operations.  

This is something that Tim Jones, our Co-founder and Managing Director, discussed with the BBC’s Look North team at their office in Sheffield, which you can watch back here at the 05:17 mark.   

Capturing today’s events, Tim commented: “Being involved in the HS2 project has been fantastic, and we were looking forward to the broader options the project presented and the chance for our software to be used in phase two. Now in the light of these changes, we wonder what opportunities will now remain for further expansion and are concerned that it will affect our recruitment and the local community in which we are based.”  

If you would be interested in discussing the above story in further depth or more, get in touch with a member of our team via [email protected]    

Harnessing technology to prepare for winter

Rail Staff

Year-on-year as winter approaches, the rail industry braces itself for months of timetable disruptions and impacts across the network, thanks to seasonal changes such as leaves on the line, to ice on the platform.   

However, thanks to innovation, solutions can be created. 3Squared are advocates of the power of innovation and new ideas to tackle complex issues across the rail network. This ethos was front and center when they created their RailSmart Adhesion Digital Solution (ADS), a digital approach to adhesion management.

Read more on how ADS and emerging innovations are tackling seasonal challenges head on, over on Railway News here. 

If you would be interested in finding out how RailSmart ADS can support your needs as winter approaches, book a demo with a member of the team here or email [email protected]  

Great British RailSmart Day: A recap

RailSmart EDS laptop and tablet graphic

Competency management is a term that dominates the rail industry, but what does it truly mean and how can the industry harness its benefits to improve efficiencies across the network? This was something that Phil Hibberd, Engagement Manager at rail membership body RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) and James Fox, Commercial Director and Co-Founder at 3Squared, delved into during our second Great British RailSmart Day online event, and more.

In its truest essence, competency management is the process of defining the competency needs within an organisation, assessing employees, identifying gaps, and developing capabilities. Competency management systems (CMSs) provide a framework and process through which an organisation manages health and safety in the workplace, by ensuring that the requisite number of staff possess, maintain, and review the necessary competencies at all levels.

CMSs have significantly improved since 1988, after the Clapham rail disaster which sadly resulted in 35 fatalities. The need for increased safety measures became clear after the incident, with the industry uniting to invest time and resource into enhancing CMSs across the network.

Innovation and technology have a key role to play in the overall improvement of CMS systems, with digital CMSs proactively measuring people’s competencies across health and safety, and organisational efficiencies. This is something that 3Squared have been working hard on over the years to implement across their tools and technologies, which became a key focus for the second half of the event.

RailSmart EDS (Employee Development System) is harnessed by a range of organisations across the industry, to improve efficiencies across their employee management systems. This was a key focus in session two of the event, with James Fox, Kathryn Beaty (Onboarding and Engagement Manager), and Becky Parry (Client Services Manager), leading the audience through an in-depth exploration of the software.

As explored above, competency management is a key consideration across all businesses, particularly ones with salient safety concerns. EDS allows managers to proactively oversee competency and safety, whilst alleviating administrative burdens and enabling managers to spend valuable time with their teams rather than in the office.

EDS was initially developed in 2014 in collaboration with Southwest Trains and East Midlands Trains. This unique collaborative approach makes EDS the only solution built from scratch alongside members of the rail industry, ensuring the system is highly effective particularly in this context. This smart solution has revolutionised the way companies implement competency management, especially for companies who previously used inefficient paper-based systems.

EDS can be used both online via desktop and laptop, as well as on a tablet allowing for greater mobility and is configurable based on the needs of its users. The software can store a wide range of essential information, from assessment results to key medical data, to support plans and recruitment information.

When it comes to assessments, managers can easily monitor employees’ statuses using the Red-Amber-Green (RAG) system which highlights when an assessment needs to be completed. You can create active competency cycles tailored to your company’s needs which ensures you will always stay in control of competency and safety across your organisation.

It allows you to continuously monitor and improve employee competency in a structured way and through interactions, including assessments, observation, classroom-based training, and eLearning. EDS is constantly evolving through its collaborative approach with its users, taking on continuous feedback to ensure the software constantly improves.

Thanks to those who attended our event, and we hope you found it an enjoyable day. If you would be interested in watching the recorded version of the event or learning more about how RailSmart can improve your operations, then get in touch with a member of the team today.

Digital solutions for rail freight

Rail Freight Train

It is evident that the current and ever evolving pandemic has presented the rail industry with a number of exceptional challenges. However, due to the unforeseen circumstances, opportunities have also been created; one of which is the industry’s ability to take a considered look at how to create much needed improvements for the UK’s freight sector.

 

The restrictions on normal ways of working across the industry have paved the way to introduce and maximise on digital solutions that benefit the freight sector and the wider rail industry alike. By working collaboratively with freight operators and industry groups, we have delivered solutions designed for use throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Path Planner

Working with Rail Operations Group and Freightliner, we have developed our new Path Planner solution that allows freight operators to carry out very short-term planning digitally and more effectively. The software identifies and capitalises on the white space available on a route; this is pertinent to operators now, as the industry debates how to better share network access between freight and passenger, and when we emerge from reduced timetables, as it enables the network to be used to maximum efficiency and reduce the risk of paths going unused.

This integrated software solution provides planners with a historical record of train movements, quickly identifying schedules that are frequently cancelled or part-used. Armed with this data, operators can then bid for paths through the Very Short-Term Planning (VSTP) system, allowing them to take advantage of much needed spare, and potentially wasted capacity.

The ground-breaking Path Planner will host a real-time capacity exchange, offering operators the chance to relinquish scheduled paths on a one-by-one basis on any given day. The efficiency of the software not only removes the need for the previous manual and inefficient processes but allows operators to maximise their opportunities to move vehicles and make the most of the infrastructure available every day.

Path Planner is one of the vital innovative solutions available to support the drive towards modal shift:  moving freight from road to rail where possible and supporting the industry’s aim to be more responsive by applying technology to realise the potential for future freight recovery.

The capacity issues that freight operators face have long been evident on the UK’s rail network and continue to be a challenge. Since the pandemic’s impact on the normal running of the railway, companies like ours have been able to thrive through providing innovative digital solutions that have allowed the industry to operate as remotely and safely as possible, while presenting long-term benefits to all involved.

Greener railway

Compared with road transport, one freight train moves the equivalent of over 70 HGV lorries, while emitting only 25% of the carbon emissions. Using the UK rail network as effectively and efficiently as possible for freight will play a huge part in the challenge to decarbonise our transport system.

Already identified by the Department for Transport as one of the most efficient ways of moving goods over long distances (policy paper on decarbonising transport – March 2020), freight operators continue to reduce their carbon emissions year on year, demonstrating a clear commitment to a greener railway.

Partnership with GB Railfreight

3Squared has worked with GB Railfreight for more than six years. The successful partnership represents a shared commitment to make the UK rail freight sector more efficient, cost effective and sustainable. The collaborative working relationship is testament to both parties’ commitment to advancing the use of digital solutions, while exploring even more innovative ways to add value to GB Railfreight and the wider freight environment.

We agree with John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, who stated recently:

“Technological advances have played a huge role in the development of the rail freight sector over recent years, but these have tended to be incremental improvements rather than quantum leaps. Digital technology is playing an ever-increasing role in the efficient and safe operation of the railway, and … is playing an important role in making the most effective use of the UK’s congested railway, which increases the opportunities to increase freight traffic.”

We recently agreed a further 3-year contract with GB Railfreight, further cementing our successful partnership and joined up approach to developing digital solutions. Through our award-winning RailSmart suite of products, we have created a platform to work together towards a greener and more efficient railway.

Back to the future

Traditionally, freight operators moved goods such as parcels from station to station, but this practice was brought to an end in the 1990s. The freight sector has used the pandemic’s impact on the rail industry to investigate the viability of bringing this service back by trialling converted surplus passenger trains as fast freight services.

With the increase in online orders and the resulting pressure on delivery services, the trains will provide not only an accelerated mode of transporting the goods, but lessen the environmental impact the equivalent road transport would have produced.

The ability to once again move parcels by freight is a fantastic example of how a service from a bygone era can be revitalised if the circumstances allow for innovative thinking. Bringing this trial to fruition would not only have a positive impact on the UK transport industry’s carbon footprint, but be the perfect example of how technology can bring an old practice in line with today’s priorities.

Sheffield-based 3Squared joins effort to close digital divide during lockdown

3Squared tries to close digital divide during lockdown

With a donation of £5000 digital software and services company 3Squared joins businesses from across the city in support of Laptops for Kids.

Launched by The Star and data software company WANdisco, Laptops for Kids is a charitable organisation that facilitates the donation and repurposing of used digital devices, enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have access to the technology they need to participate in remote learning, bridging the digital divide which has become more prevalent due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

The generous donation from 3Squared nearly doubles the current GoFundMe total and adds to the donations of used devices which have already been given to the charitable organisation from businesses large and small.

To avoid data leakage, donors can erase devices themselves. Alternatively, The Sheffield College can erase devices using software donated by Blancco plc, the global leader in certified data erasure. Learn Sheffield, a non-profit owned by schools, colleges and Sheffield City Council, is distributing the recycled devices to schools according to need.

Tim Jones, Co-Founder and Managing Director at 3Squared, said:

“Children having access to devices at home for distanced based learning is a national problem. With nearly one in 10 households without access to a laptop, tablet or PC, many of our children are missing out on vital education. It’s great to see companies within the Sheffield City Region stepping up to address this issue locally. Having young children myself, and with many of our employees with young families, this is an issue close to our hearts. I’d urge other companies in the region to get involved and donate devices or money to support this worthy cause. Together we can make an impact and ensure that the children of our region don’t get left behind.”

David Richards, founder and CEO of WANdisco plc, said:

“Many thanks to 3Squared for its generous donation to the Laptops for Kids campaign. We urge successful companies to come forward and help us close the digital divide. Young people must not be denied their right to education during the pandemic.”

3Squared supplies expert consultancy and technology solutions developed to tackle known and emerging rail challenges. It helps customers to implement digital solutions that drive change within their business, increase productivity, mitigate risk and reduce cost.

Find out more about the solutions our software can supply and book a demo. 

3Squared secures a 3-year renewal of its RailSmart platform with digital rail freight pioneers GB Railfreight

Freight train at platform

Digital transport solutions provider, 3Squared today announced that it has secured a contract with GB Railfreight for renewed and expanded use of its award winning RailSmart software platform.

This renewed three-year contract marks the third successful renewal of the partnership between 3Squared and GB Railfreight which has continued to develop over more than half a decade. The renewal further cements the long-term commitment of both parties to advancing the use of digital solutions whilst exploring even more ways to innovate and add value to GB Railfreight. 3Squared and its freight operating client have a shared commitment to make the UK rail freight sector more efficient, sustainable and cost effective while keeping Britain moving through current challenges.

Tim Jones, Managing Director of 3Squared, commented:

“We are delighted to be working with GB Railfreight for another 3 years. This renewal solidifies a fantastic and successful partnership. This long-term renewal provides both parties with a strong platform to continue working together towards achieving an improved railway.

“This investment from GB Railfreight is a significant demonstration of its commitments to digitalisation.  This is more pertinent than ever considering the current challenges that our industry faces at present. It is also testament to the value and benefits our RailSmart platform delivers for operations when implemented correctly. We look forward to our continued working relationship”

Alfredo Giangregorio, Head of IT at GB Railfreight, added:

“GB Railfreight first engaged with 3Squared back in 2014 with the introduction of its Railsmart EDS (Employee Development System), and they have been instrumental in partnering with us to deliver our digital roadmap over the last 6 years. Our latest collaboration, the award winning Railsmart RCM (Remote Condition Monitoring) provides us real time locomotive telemetry and alerts, allowing our Control, Engineering and Operations teams greater asset and resource management.

“I look forward to further collaboration with 3Squared in the coming years, not only benefiting GB Railfreight but also the wider rail freight community.”

RailSmart is an award-winning suite of software applications that support the operations, safety and compliance of today’s modern transportation companies. A platform that turns information into insight and helps drives efficiencies all across the business.

Book a demo with us to find out more.