The International Critical Control Rooms Alliance and transportation

With the critical importance of control rooms and the vast amount of pressures the employees who work in them are under, Peter Prater, ICCRA Chair, and Robin Davis, TCCA Transportation Group Chair, discuss the importance of the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance (ICCRA) in developing best practices for and supporting the sector.


In an increasingly sophisticated and busy world, those responsible for our safety, our efficiency, our daily needs and our growing demand for excellence must always endeavour to stay one step ahead of citizens and other stakeholders. However, staying ahead is not easy – it takes planning, time and investment. 

Transport hubs have this very issue. They are extremely important because the increasing flow of passengers and goods has to be managed safely, efficiently, and in an environmentally sound manner through increasingly congested networks. Take, for example, the London Underground: an article by Business Insider UK commented that it is the world’s oldest subway system, employing more than 17,000 people and transporting more than one billion passengers every year.

The article noted that the control mechanisms and rooms responsible for the management of the network are going through a major upgrade. This is not surprising since the signalling system on these lines is one of the oldest in use anywhere in the world, with parts of it dating back to the 1930s. A part of the modernised solution is a £25 million state-of-the-art control centre. Built in 2013, it incorporates and links network operations, power, track access and policing control centres to step up communications between functions.

High expectations

A related job advert for an employee for this control room expected the applicant to proactively manage the train service safely and efficiently in the best interests of customers (think air traffic control for rail), and maintain a world class service. They were required to effectively manage the transition between traffic hours and engineering hours. The role looked for proactive people who had a proven track record of providing operational excellence whilst working in high-pressured environments focused on the safety of colleagues and customers.

We can deduct from this that the pressure to deliver is intense, and the educational and experience level of these employees is significant.

This picture is very much the same all over the world – there are thousands of control rooms supporting and managing critical service provision of all varieties. Until recently, no single organisation existed to offer support for the hundreds of thousands of people employed directly or indirectly in critical control rooms managing incidents and facilitating excellent response.

A critical alliance for critical control

Employees in these control rooms are faced with a myriad of challenges in delivering efficient services – some of these they can control, but many of them they cannot. Often, they work in very stressful situations and can face traumatic incidents on a daily basis. In our opinion, this makes them special, and it is what drove a number of like-minded people to form the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance (ICCRA) earlier in 2017, which has a core belief and understanding that all of these critical control rooms have similar issues.

ICCRA is a working group of the TCCA, but has its own membership profile and brings together critical control room professionals from all corners of the world in order to help them deliver excellent mission critical services. Its goal is to become the platform for critical service control room discussion and the development of proactive measures designed to create constant evolution and ensure best practice.

The ICCRA is not simply concerned with just the technology employed to deliver these services; it recognises that proficient critical service control room operations revolve around the effective integration of people, processes, technology and the working environment. To this end, its scope of interest is in all of these areas. It aims to collate, deliver and discuss information from a wide range of sources, including critical control rooms, suppliers and other associations, like those supporting air traffic control, utilities, transportation, and emergency services, among others. Through its work, the ICCRA wants to support, lobby, inspire, inform and educate critical control room managers and operators across the world.

The transport sector has many challenges but, as we noted above, while some of these are unique, a significant proportion are shared with colleagues in other fields. Operationally, some of these are becoming much more collaborative in nature (as noted in the example of London Underground). Increasingly, in a drive for multimodal freight and passenger transport solutions, the transport sector rubs shoulders with those engaged in the wider agenda for safer or more efficient cities/communities.

What better place to discuss integrated solutions and common challenges than the ICCRA? What is certain is that in a safer cities agenda, the ability to share and manage common data and information is of paramount importance – all agencies involved must be able to work out how best to manage the raft of information at their disposal for the common aim of keeping the community running safely and efficiently 24/7.

Exploring this a little further, the transportation sector can bring a lot of information to the table that it manages today (perhaps in isolation) related to:

  • Intermodal solutions – high-speed and commuter trains, trams, metros, bus, road traffic control and management, as well as parking solutions
  • Estate solutions – building management, utilities, energy generation, water and wastewater, safety and security of people and resources
  • IT infrastructure – communication solutions, rail communication, control rooms and network management.

These, and other information sources, can help to create new value when combined considerately with the data and information owned by other service providers – this is both the opportunity and the challenge.

Behind all of this, however, is the one thing that is common to all these services: the control room operators and managers that strive to deliver at all times and under a wide range of circumstances. The ICCRA will concentrate on the various number of issues supporting excellent staffing and facilities. It will attract, train, motivate and retain high quality people, and provide them with well-designed, planned and executed working environments, making sure that all relevant human factors and usability criteria have been taken into account.


Peter-Prater-ICCRAPeter Prater is the Founder and Chair of the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance. He has worked in and around critical control rooms all his working life and is passionate about enhancing and preserving the excellent reputation of these institutions particularly when they are influenced by changes in technology.



Robin-Davis-ICCRARobin Davis is Chair of the TCCA Transportation Group, a role he has held for the last 10 years. He is also a Director and Management Consultant at Actica Consulting, based in the UK. Initially qualifying as a railway signalling engineer, Robin has advised various government organisations around the world on the specification, procurement and delivery of advanced ICT technology and mission critical control room applications.

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