The Elizabeth line opened on 24 May 2022, with trains travelling through new tunnels under central London. Ensuring the safe operation of the line was years in the making. Our human-centred design (HCD) team were there from the start.
The RCC combines signalling and power control with train service delivery teams, operating an end-to-end service from one control room.
Rail for London Infrastructure (RfLI) is responsible for Elizabeth line infrastructure management in the Central Operating Section (COS) between Westbourne Park Junction in the west and Abbey Wood in the south-east and Pudding Mill Lane Junction in the east. Mass Transit Railway – Elizabeth line (MTREL) operates the fleet of trains across the entire line.
Both companies’ Elizabeth line control functions are based at the RCC, and they work together on managing the trains.
The dedicated control suite at Romford includes operational control, incident and training simulator facilities, and brings together people, operations, management, control systems and physical equipment in one place. By recognising the interaction between these elements, our HCD team developed a space designed to support operator performance and minimise human error.
Underpinned by science
Our team apply science-based principles, underpinned by psychology, physiology and anthropometrics, to any context where people interact with objects, places or other people. They brought this knowledge of how people think and what people do to design a user-centred solution for the RCC. In addition to ensuring a human-centred design based on control room function requirements, the team were also responsible for undertaking validation exercises during trial running of both trains and operations.
ISO 110640, the international standard on ergonomics design of control centres, governed the development of the RCC. The standard takes a socio-technical approach, meaning designs must take account of the organisation’s various interacting social and technical subsystems – the people, infrastructure, technology, culture, processes and goals. It informed the layouts of the control room, suite and workstations, as well as the designs for the displays and controls, environment (lighting, temperature and noise), and organisational and management systems, including roles, responsibilities and procedures.
Collaboration between our HCD team, Crossrail, RfLI and other stakeholders, including Network Rail and contractors, was strong from the start. A total of 869 human factor design requirements were developed and agreed with Crossrail, RfLI and representatives of the train operating company. We adopted an iterative design approach, with engagement with stakeholders and contractors to validate the designs at each key phase. Conceptual layout options based on existing control rooms and new, innovative designs were developed, and 2D CAD models were drawn to provide a visual demonstration of each option. The layout options were assessed in a design development workshop with Crossrail and RfLI to select the one that best met the requirements.
This process enhanced and refined aspects of the operational layout, mapping the key communication relationships between operators by discussing different operational scenarios with end-user representatives. A full-scale mock-up of the proposed control room involving end-users was then built to further refine and validate the final design. The detailed design phase also involved testing the operability and useability of systems, with operability assessments with end-users across a range of scenarios to validate the design of each system.
The final phase of the design was undertaken during the trial running and test operations between April 2021 and March 2022. Our HCD team observed the operators as they were engaged in more than 40 operational scenarios, under a range of normal running, degraded and emergency conditions. The team assessed and validated the integrated operability of systems and equipment, ensuring that the control suite sufficiently supported operators in their roles and tasks. This design stage provided assurance evidence to support the opening of the Elizabeth line.