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Irish Rail puts French on right track

Chris McMorrow, left, head of fleet management with Irish Rail, and Bertrand Boceno, who is in charge of maintenance development for the SNCF network, at the Irish Rail technical centre in Drogheda.  Picture: Ciara Wilkinson
Chris McMorrow, left, head of fleet management with Irish Rail, and Bertrand Boceno, who is in charge of maintenance development for the SNCF network, at the Irish Rail technical centre in Drogheda. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson

They may have some of the fastest trains in the world but the French have come to Ireland to learn how to make savings while also improving the reliability of their entire fleet, including their TGV trains that reach speeds of 320km/h.

SNCF is learning how Irish Rail has used lean management practices to improve the reliability of its trains, while also reducing staff in the maintenance area and cutting costs.

SNCF is 18 months into the lean management programme and Mr Bertrand Boceno, who is in charge of maintenance development for the SNCF network, said it was a system that brings with it a change in culture which could take "five or 10 years" to complete.

"We wanted to look at where we can go with this. What we see here in the (Irish Rail) technical centres in Drogheda and Inchicore are very interesting and I would be very happy if in four or five years our technical centres could be like them," he said yesterday.

SNCF has 25,000 maintenance staff employed across its 37 depots.

Mr Boceno said: "We know we have a lot of waste in general in SNCF and want to improve on that as Irish Rail has done.

"It is really comparable when I see all the improvements done here and the possible improvements we can do in SNCF."

He said the lean management system had already seen half a million euro saved on one specific project by SNCF.

Chris McMorrow, head of fleet management with Irish Rail, said lean management principles, "can be applied in any business."

Since it was introduced by Irish Rail in 2007 it has seen maintenance staff numbers reduced from 76 to 60, while train maintenance costs fell by 30% or €23m and the company says that there has been a 75% increase in the reliability of trains.

Lean management started in the manufacturing industry in Japan and transferred to Europe.

Mr McMorrow, said, "Lean looks at all your processes and, critically, it looks at waste."