Incident Management in Public Transport - Surveying Dispatchers’ Actions

Public transport can contribute to many transport policy objectives. The attractiveness of public transport can be increased if, for example, punctuality, information flow or robustness are improved. This is the task of incident management, among other things. Incident management in local public transport is operated by a professional group of dispatchers in an operations control centre. The incident management is carried out in order to maintain operation in a specific incident situation. Dispatchers adjust their selected dispatching measure to this incident situation. There are national and international regulations and instructions on possible dispatching measures. These are partly extended or reduced by the local transport agencies. They form the scope of action for the dispatchers. In daily practice, however, decisions are often made quickly and individually by one dispatcher. In the literature, there is little information about the factors influencing dispatchers. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to analyse the extent to which the influencing factors and freedom of choice in the incident management can be surveyed. For this, the authors conducted interviews at the public transport authority of Karlsruhe (KVV). These provide initial insights to create a survey concept applicable in many transport agencies. The first question is how to collect relevant data. Therefore, the authors conducted qualitative interviews with dispatchers working at KVV to understand their working environment and scope of action. Since it is unclear to what extent the answers of the individual dispatchers differ, a semi-structured interview with the help of a previously developed guideline was chosen. The guideline has two tasks: First, it serves as support for the interviewer during the actual interview situation. Thus, these guidelines list both main questions and useful side questions to ensure that all relevant topics are covered. The side questions serve as a suggestion for thematic deepening that does not result from the course of the conversation. Second, the guideline helps to check if the interview partner has already addressed the relevant aspects of interest. The structure used is flexible in order to avoid abrupt changes of topic during the interview and, if necessary, to reorder the questions during the conversation with the dispatcher. The interviewer can also include new or additional questions that arise during the course of the interview. In the interview, the dispatchers are asked about their tasks, their procedure in the event of an emerging disruption and the influence of disruption characteristics on their choice. The questions are grouped into a general and a specific part. The general part deals with the overall behaviour and the general procedure from the dispatchers’ point of view. This allows the authors to analyse the subjective perception of the dispatchers on their processes. The specific part deals with the behaviour and actions undertaken in one or more distinct incident situations, together with the corresponding dispatching measures. It is important to describe the situation and the selected measures as accurately as possible. This allows to assess the situations objectively. By comparing the results of both parts, the authors determine how dispatchers deviate from the general procedure in specific situations. The authors conducted five interviews that lasted between 28 minutes and 76 minutes. The dispatchers have different levels of experience. All dispatchers are additionally employed as drivers. This is particularly important for all of them, as it is the only way to gain experience about the possible courses of action. The results of the interviews show that all dispatchers describe the general procedure similarly. However, dispatchers consider a different number of influencing factors depending on their experience. When describing certain situations and specific dispatching measures, two types of dispatchers can be distinguished: Dispatchers who work daily in the operations control centre, and dispatchers whose last shift was longer ago or who only fill in on call, for example if someone else is absent. Dispatchers who work in the control centre daily describe the specific situations in much more detail. The dispatchers who work as stand-ins were also asked about specific situations. However, they describe less the particular situation itself rather than the general procedure. In this study, the authors found a gap between the generally described and the actually realised disposition measures. To formally describe the procedures of the dispatchers, the authors need to examine as many real situations of their daily work as possible. The authors therefore aim to extend their research with a quantitative survey in different transport authorities. This research is funded by the grant FOR 2083 from the German Research Foundation (DFG).


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Bibliography; Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 10p
  • Monograph Title: European Transport Conference 2020

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01766212
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 11 2021 11:28AM