Project Management

Project Management View from Rail Transit Programs and Projects

A collection of articles sharing project processes, design and construction experience, best practices, and lessons learned along with operational knowledge related to executing programs and projects in the rail transit industry.

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Recent Posts

Do You Know the Entire Contract – Part 13

Factors, Metrics and Tips on Quality Management for the Non Conformance Report Process

Good Practices for Continuous Improvement in Management Tools on Rail Transit Projects

System Integration on Rail Transit Projects

Commissioning & Its Importance on Rail Transit Projects

Do You Know the Entire Contract – Part 13

Critical Components in General Conditions  -  Definitions

Originally posted in 2017,, Parts 1 -12 were tailored for Project Managers to know the various parts of a contract between a Buyer and Seller.    The information could be applied to contracts for purchased materials and furnished products.    At the time, the articles were focused on topics that were essential for Project Managers to contribute and take a lead role in developing the Contract, and to be best prepared for the post-award execution.     The previous articles covered:

  1. Information For Bidders (IFB) – Due Dates
  2. IFB – Company Qualifications
  3. IFB – Key Personnel
  4. iFB – Bid Requirements
  5. General Conditions (GC) – Buyer Contacts
  6. GC – Performance Schedule
  7. GC – Progress and Milestones Payments
  8. GC – Liquidated Damages
  9. Specifications – Division 1
  10. Specifications – Division 1
  11. Special Conditions/Supplemental Terms and Conditions – Part A
  12. Special Conditions/Supplemental Terms and Conditions – Part B

The Contract is the baseline for Buyers and Sellers to define, execute, manage, and closeout the work as part of a project.   No matter how much effort and time the Buyer uses to create the Contract, it will never be perfect and there will be times when the Buyer and Seller will have questions and uncover conflicts or ambiguity that will need to be resolved fairly.    As a result, the Contract normally includes a section in the General Conditions for Interpretation.   Among other items, this requirement indicates that when a conflict is discovered the more stringent shall apply, and as needed, the Seller shall notify the Buyer in writing of the specifics within a fixed period of days from when the Seller becomes aware of the conflict.

When clarity is required on contract requirements, there are several options available for bidders and   Sellers with the Buyer.


During the bid/proposal period, bidders are required to present to the Buyer any questions or requests for clarification on the Contract requirements.   This includes identifying conflicts in the Contract Documents, which normally defer to the more stringent requirement. 

Following receipt of bidders’ questions, the Buyer will provide an answer and issue an Addendum to the Contract.   The Addendum becomes part of the Contract and they are distributed to all bidders registered for picking up proposal packages.  

Post-Contract Award

After the Contract is awarded to the Seller, all questions on conflicts in the requirements or on vague requirements will follow the Request For Information (RFI) process.  The Buyer’s RFI process will be presented to the Seller as part of several topics on administration and execution at the Contract Kick-Off Meeting.  

The RFI process follows a Buyer’s specific format and content for asking questions and requesting clarifications.   The duration for response will be established by the Buyer unless specific due date are identified by the Seller in the RFI.  

An often overlooked and under-developed is the General Conditions section for Definition.   This is usually ignored because the presumption is, if its not in the Definitions is because the details are provide in detail in other sections of the Contract.   However, this may not always be the situation.     

Critical Components in General Conditions  -  Definitions

The first action when questions on requirements arise with the Contract is for Buyer and Seller to review the entire Contract including the Definitions.   While this may not resolve the question, it may eliminate an unnecessary RFI. 

The Buyer’s response to the Seller’s RFIs become part of the Contract and they need to be managed, and as determined by the Buyer may result in changes to the Contract documents.   The Seller may also follow within notice of potential change if the Buyer’s RFI response can be substantiated as extra work not originally mutually understood at award of the Contract.

Some definitions are not in the Contract because they are assumed normal practice for executing contracts in a particular industry.  As noted in Part 6, the typical contract milestones are Notice to Proceed, Substantial Completion and Contract Completion.    For construction contracts, particularly in rail transit projects, the may be additional milestones and definitions needed to support the Buyer’s desired execution of the work.   As a result, the following definitions and milestones should be considered:

  • Punchlist:    A list of minor touchups and repairs that do not restrict the Buyer’s use of work for its intended purpose.    The work on the list shall not include base scope not yet installed unless otherwise agreed upon by Buyer and Seller. 
  • Operational Use:   Prior to Substantial Completion or Construction Completion, the Buyer’s critical business determines the need for use of a portion of the work.   
  • Final Acceptance:   This is the condition when the Seller provides all deliverables regarding the work to achieve Final Acceptance such as as-built drawings, spare parts, O&M Manuals, Training, Software, Warranty, and Asset Management Construction Completion, and the Buyer acknowledges Acceptance, and takes responsibility for future operation and maintenance.
  • Contract Construction Completion:  This is the contract level condition when the all construction is completed, including punchlist, certifications and demobilization, is completed and verified by Buyer’s final inspection and sign-off, and the Seller is able to demobilize personnel and equipment and no longer requires access to the work site from the Buyer.    The only remaining contract work is the administration of the closeout processes and documentation to achieve Contract Completion.
  • Intermediate Construction Completion:    For contract scope that can be separated without interdependence with other scope, all intermediate work scope, including punchlist, certifications and demobilization, is completed and verified by Buyer’s final inspection and sign-off, and the Seller is able to demobilize personnel and equipment and no longer requires access to the intermediate scope work site from the Buyer.      
  • Contract Substantial Completion:  This is the contract level condition when the work is completed by the Seller for use by the Buyer as intended.   The only remaining construction is the punchlist work. 
  • Intermediate Substantial Completion:   For contract scope that can be separated without interdependence with other scope, the work is completed by the Seller to a condition the intermediate scope is suitable for use by the Buyer as intended. 
  • Final Completion/Closeout:     This is the contract level condition when the all contractual, legal and administrative activities and deliverables are provided by the Seller and acknowledged by the Buyer, including the reconciliation of changes, payments and claims; release of liens and other contractual notices are completed; and the Buyer releases retainage withheld on payments.             
  • Intermediate Final  Completion:   For contract scope that can be separated without interdependence with other scope, this is the condition the Seller substantiates reconciliation of changes, payments and claims; release of liens and other contractual notices for the intermediate scope are completed; and the Buyer releases retainage withheld on payments equated to work. 
  • Delay:  This is a Seller’s formal Notice to Buyer presenting that a condition of the work, including unforeseen site conditions, limited work hours, lack of prescribed support from Buyer or adjustments in pre-award means and methods approved by the Buyer, has changed the Seller’s originals plans, and as a result, the Seller’s ability to achieve the original schedule milestones are impacted.
  • Excusable Delay:  This a Buyer’s substantiation of a Seller’s Notice, regarding a delay that impacts original schedule milestones, and determination the Seller demonstrated reasonable and proactive attempts to mitigate the impacts, and it results in a contract modification to adjust the schedule milestones.
  • Concurrent Delay:  This is a Buyer’s determination that the Seller’s Notice of delay is parallel to other excusable delays presented by the Seller and already granted by the Buyer during the same period.

TIP:     Definitions apply to the entire contract.   The content for terms and phrases in Definitions should not be repeated in other parts of the Contract.   This will avoid creating conflicts from duplicate but differing language.

TIP:    Definitions are the primary source for information when there is ambiguity in other sections of the Contract.    


Posted on: September 30, 2020 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Factors, Metrics and Tips on Quality Management for the Non Conformance Report Process

On a recent bridge project, the infiltration of water through the decking to the roadway underneath was obvious.   A field visitor to the bridge after a heavy rain expressed dissatisfaction and suggested the bridge was like a car wash.   Another stakeholder sent a terse Email indicating an inspection was wasting people’s time because the waterproofing non-conformance was not corrected.   

Here is a project manager’s perspective on the three primary steps in the non-conformance process: 

Opening:         At this step, the contractor and quality group determined there is a non-conformance of the product/deliverables to meet the contract requirements.   A Non-Conformance Report (NCR) is created and distributed for engineer and quality group review.  (This can be preceded by an Observation, which is reviewed and confirmed to be a non-conforming condition.) 

Pending:          At this step, the contractor, engineer and quality groups agree on the required corrective action to resolve the described non-conformance.  Procedures and as needed, updated drawings or sketches are approved and ready for execution.    

Closing:           At this step, the contractor and construction manager agree the corrective action is completed and after testing, it is confirmed the work product/deliverables meet the contract.  Quality records are available to substantiate closing the NCR.

The NCR is an output for controlling non-conforming conditions on projects, which are based on contract requirements as well as industry standards by International Organization for Standards (ISO) and Project Management Institute (PMI).  The NCR is an integral part of a Project Quality Management System Plan (QMS) and the project approved Quality Manual from each consultant, contractor, vendor, manufacturer and independent testing agency. 

A sample contract might include the following QMS attributes, which can be customized to the contract scope such as design, construction, construction management and testing agency:

  • Management Responsibilities
  • Design [and/or Construction] Control
  • Document Control
  • Purchasing
  • Supplied Items
  • Product Identification and Traceability
  • Process Control
  • Inspection and Testing
  • Inspection, Measuring and Test Equipment
  • Inspection and Test Status
  • Non Conformance
  • Corrective Action
  • Quality Records
  • Quality Audits
  • Training

While an NCR was written and the corrective action was agreed upon by the Engineer and product manufacturer regarding the bridge, there were delays in arranging the required work conditions for completing the corrective action.  Subsequently, the repair to the bridge waterproofing was not successful in resolving the drainage problem.  As a result, the same repair was scheduled for the future, which further increased the overall process duration.

There were no contract requirements or project level plans containing performance goals/durations for each step.    However, management for the contractor and PM oversight were questioning the number of open NCRs and the durations to closure.   Management perceived the durations for the NCRs were much too long.

The NCR process durations are a function of the work hours and conditions for each contract in a project.   As a result, each project and each contract may have different durations for the optimum project processes including NCRs. 

Factors affecting NCR durations:

  • Proximity and access to the work location
  • Priority of work by the Engineer and Quality team representatives
  • Prescribed durations for response dictated by project document control goals
  • Schedule for successor activities using the product and deliverable cited in NCR
  • Conditions, including temperature, weather, and safe work environment, required for implementing the corrective action
  • Availability of Independent Testing Agencies to physically confirm and generate a Report the corrective action are complete, successful and meet contract requirements.

Management of NCR performance should be based on historical data from previous experience with the process lifecycle provided by the Buyer’s organization on completed projects similar in scope, cost, schedule, complexity, contract types, and document control methodology.   Without prior experience, performance metrics may need to go through several trial periods based on the best estimate of the NCR work flow.

The estimated work flow should be developed, vetted and tested by the Buyer and Seller before implementing performance management/measurement of NCR durations.  An example for the NCR work flow and optimum activity timeframes for a rail transit project is below.  The process includes Field personnel identifying variances to requirements and  overseeing site work, Engineer to evaluate the NCR/Observation and determine the corrective action, Contractor to perform the corrective action and the Field personnel to confirm the corrective action meet requirements.  This example may be a useful framework across several industries.

Opening:         The activities in this phase are:

  • Report observation to Quality group-Day 1
  • Evaluate observation and determine if corrected by Construction group-Day 7 (NCR not required)
  • Determine work was completed without correcting the variance to requirements-Day 14
  • Initiate and complete NCR-Day 21

Pending:          The activities in this phase are:

  • Submit NCR to Engineer for review-Day 22
  • Conduct field inspection of conditions-Day 29
  • Develop corrective action/contract change-Day 59
  • Submit corrective action for Buyer review-Day 58
  • Obtain Buyer approval on corrective action-Day 72

Closing:           The activities in this phase are:

  • Notify Construction group to implement corrective action-Day 73
  • Obtain materials and equipment for work-Day 87
  • Complete corrective action work-Day 101
  • Issue NCR confirming completion-Day 108
  • Obtain Buyer approval on completion or work to requirements-Day 122

Accounting for the established review goals, processing time for document control, and the limited access to site locations, the optimum duration for NCR process = 122 days from initial Observation.   The potential metrics for monitoring performance are:   OPENING = 21 days from Observation.   PENDING = 51 days from NCR start.    CLOSING = 50 days from approval of NCR corrective action.

TIP:    PM should balance the work flow and activity timeframe to the specific project scope and durations common to the industry, the Buyer’s standard organization processes, and the review duration goals for document control/production.

TIP:    PM should evaluate the managerial and administrate effort by the Buyer and contractor to explain performance variances to goal durations, which may already be monitored and measurable by other means such as achieving contract and forecast milestones.  Typical milestones, including Substantial Completion, Construction Completion and Final Completion/Acceptance are dependent on closing NCRs and Observations. 

TIP:    Metrics and dashboards are proven management tools for monitoring project performance as well as organizational silos.  PM should assess the totality of the management dashboards so that the team, stakeholders, funding partners, community and political influencers remain focused on critical goals without distraction to tie up managerial resources explaining variances to goals on items that do not directly affect progress and achieving goals. 

TIP:    The performance on NCRs may not be as critical as other key indicators that more directly affect interdependencies on achieving operational use and final acceptance of the project product/deliverable by hard schedule dates and milestones.

TIP:   Project QMS and contractor/consultant Quality Manuals should clearly define the attributes for an Observation and Non Conformance.  Both work flows should provide checkpoints to eliminate nuisance and trivial items identified during routine in-progress inspections of work.  These items should be resolved by the Buyer’s and Seller’s supervision on-site.    

Posted on: August 22, 2020 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Good Practices for Continuous Improvement in Management Tools on Rail Transit Projects

S.R. Covey’s Habit 2 from The Habits of Highly Effective People is -  Begin With the End In Mind.   This habit in personal effectiveness can be equally applied to project management inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. 

For an experienced rail transit project professional, the path to the project success can appear very obvious.  However project professionals with less experience, and lesser familiarity with the business responsibilities of an Owner in the transport industry, may not recognize the connections between project management silos, the needed coordination with adjacent projects, or the Owner’s managerial approaches, decision making and performance metrics.  

Due to the scope, size and complexity of mega projects, many construction managers and project management consultants supplement services with software tools to manage the volume of records and knowledge created by contracts.   Some project management software tools allow project professionals to separate management functions into silos and segregate the silos for efficiency in executing project processes and deliverables driven by established performance metrics.   While this may help to organize the project work, responsibilities and personnel assignments, and to expedite production, it will need to be aligned with the Owner’s means, methods, organizational operating assets and processes used for the transport business.   

Project Management Institute’s – Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI-PMBOK) reminds project managers that the project is a temporary endeavor, and as so, project managers need to adapt and effectively use the organizations existing business structures, organizational process assets and organizational business systems.   Following the life cycle of processes, the integration management by the Project Manger (PM) consists of:

  • Develop Project Charter
  • Develop the Project Management Plan
  • Direct and Manage the Project Work
  • Manage Project Knowledge
  • Monitor and Control Project Work
  • Perform Integrated Change Control
  • Close Project or Phase

In some software tools, the management functions include design, construction, safety, quality, commercial, operations, outreach and safety/security.   And the technical reviewer assignments are separated into broad scopes of expertise, such as civil and structures, track and systems, stations and garages, commercial, and safety and security.  The software can also allow for delegation to other reviewers as well as to the Owner’s technical representatives with organizational responsibility for the scope that is the subject of the submitted documents.   Based on the typical rail transit organization, this can create overlaps as well as gaps in resources to handle a large volume of work.  

Keep the End In Mind – All the project records and knowledge created by the PM, contractor and construction manager will be transferred to the rail transit company/Owner

In rail transit organizations, work on fixed assets is separated into track, power, communications and signals, and bridges, buildings and facilities.   Unless the software tools can be adapted to best align with the Owner’s organization and be accessible for all reviewers, the entire contract submittal and deliverables review processes will become more complex than intended as cross functions are determined or missed.  This may require unbudgeted resources to correct and make the process efficient and to assure the knowledge is usable for the Owner’s organization.   

Essentials for maximizing benefits from software tools:

  • Administrators/Document Control Managers must be familiar with rail transit organization structures, division of work and the technical expertise within management silos
  • Assigned leads using the software tools must understand their role as well as the scope jurisdiction of support staff for delegating reviews
  • All reviewers must have direct access to the software tool and the digitized project documents
  • All support reviewers must have dedicated hours to accomplish the assigned workload within performance criteria
  • Coding and labeling of documents must align with the organization’s system for storing and retrieving project records.

Introducing the organization to the software tools used by consultants and contractors requires an understanding of the rail transit operating structure, division of responsibilities, labor jurisdictions for work, and how it fits into the established groupings of technical experts. 

The civil and structure scope encompasses facilities, buildings and bridges that support rail transit infrastructure such as employee facilities, station buildings, platforms, parking areas, signage, fire protection, vertical transport, landscaping, and safety and security.  This infrastructure directly and indirectly supports and integrates with the operation of rail transit systems contained in the track and systems.

The track scope encompasses constructing track, track foundation, sub-ballast and ballast and special trackwork, such as switches that form interlockings for crossing trains from one track to another.   The systems’ scope, which is significantly larger and involves more complex technology, encompasses constructing equipment and interconnecting infrastructure forming assets for operations including communications, signal, power, supervisory control, operation center integration, security, fire protection and passenger information.  

The stations scope encompasses constructing buildings and waiting rooms, platforms and shelters, pedestrian overpasses and elevators, grade level parking, passenger information systems, and plazas, seating, walkways and landscaping.   The garage scope encompasses constructing multi-level parking, administrative offices, employee and equipment rooms, signage, fare collection, and landscaping.  

The safety scope encompasses constructing assets to mitigate job hazards and monitoring the means and methods used by consultants and contractors in performing the project work.   The security scope encompasses constructing assets with appropriate features, such as CCTV, intrusions alarms, structural barriers and hardening, to address threats and vulnerabilities from potential exposure to political and cultural environment in the area. 

Keep the End In Mind – PM's execution and delivery of assets and records must satisfy the rail transit company/Owner

The fixed assets in the rail transit projects are constructed, operated and maintained to support the operation of rolling stock, especially passenger cars and locomotives, for the movement of passengers between departing and destination train stations.  The fixed infrastructure and the rolling stock are interdependent to each other for moving customers safely, efficiently and comfortably, while meeting expectations for security, reliability and on-time performance.     

Good Practices for PMs to Improve Managerial Performance:

  • Monitor and assess the quality of transactions from using the Document Control and  Project Management software tools, and undertake actions for improvements
  • Review, identify improvements and actions based on published monthly, periodic and adhoc reports from Project Management Office (PMO), Consultant(s), Contractor(s), Oversight Consultant(s) and independent advocacy experts 
  • Conduct and document monthly PMO/Project Quality Management System meetings
  • Conduct and document monthly PMO performance meetings with the Owner
  • Evaluate Lessons Learned for edits/improvements to existing Plans, Procedures/and Requirements
  • Update/reaffirm Project Plans/Procedures on a semi annual or annual basis
  • Monitor and undertake actions on recurring Non-Conformance Reports issued under the Quality Program.

TIP:   PMOs and Project Managers should continuously monitor processes and procedures, address inefficiencies, and reduce complexities that create avoidable delays in progress to production metrics and shortfalls in quality to requirements. 

TIP:   The quality of labeling and coding on contract submittals and deliverables directly influences the success for storing, searching and retrieving project records.   

TIP:   A comprehensive list of reviewers by technical scope should be consistently used to create primary and secondary assignments and work flows for commenting on the project documents.    

TIP:   Secondary assignments should include reviewers with technical jurisdiction on interdependent work and interfaces to the primary scope in the project documents.

TIP:   Document Control should monitor submittal content for correct titling and numbering convention to maintain threads on sequential iterations of documents from comment reviews and revision control on adjustments from new information during progress or changes in design and construction.



Posted on: August 10, 2020 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

System Integration on Rail Transit Projects

Since dirt roads with horse drawn carriages and wagons were replaced with rails, rail transit systems were built from the top of running rails (TOR) and centerline of rails (COR).  TOR is the interface for rails car vertical clearances with overhead structures, passenger car vestibule interfaces with station platforms.  COR is the interface for horizontal clearance between rail cars and structures along the Right Of Way (ROW.)

Rail transit industry evolved to steel rails and cars with steel wheels and axle sets.  From this foundation, operators continued to integrate technology and raise service standards by adding systems to improve the safety of train operations and comfort in passenger cars and fixed infrastructure.  Each improvement created more interfaces and the need for more extensive testing of interdependent systems assure operation to meet standards.    Some of the interfaces are:

  • AC and DC electric motor propulsion and passenger HVAC comfort on rail cars
  • 3rd rail DC power and AC overhead catenary power to support passenger cars
  • 110hz Ac powered signal systems for safest movement rail cars
  • Communications systems for operations and customer information at stations and on-board rail cars.

As world events affected mankind, safety and security systems were incorporated for surveillance of employees, passengers and other customers in stations, terminals, facilities and passenger cars and monitor environmental conditions in terminals.  

The rail transit industry is always developing improvements for upgrading fixed assets and rolling stock systems.  The more recent improvements include providing real-time status on service on video displays and message signage in passenger cars, stations, and platforms.  Other improvements such as positive train control, and video monitoring of engineer status in the cab of passenger cars and locomotives are still being developed.  

Each subsequent improvement creates more interfaces and the need for more extensive testing of interdependent systems assure operation to meet standards.   

In rail transit – TOR and COR remain a constant datum for the interface between passenger cars and system infrastructure.    It is also a baseline criterion for developing scope, technical criteria, and design, construction and testing requirements for capital projects.   The project scope, execution method, cost and duration are a function of the business case category.  

Common business case categories are stated in the New York MTA Capital Program Plans for planning projects and they are:

  • State of Good Repair (SGR) projects renew assets that have surpassed their useful life, to achieve SGR. 
  • Normal Replacement (NR) projects renew assets that are nearing the end of their useful life, to preserve SGR
  • System Improvement (SI) projects enhance the network, providing new capabilities and a better customer experience  \
  • Network Expansion (NE) projects extend the reach of the MTA network, expanding the service offering

Unlike air travel, water travel and roadway travel, the rail transit passenger cars and infrastructure are always physically constrained by the characteristics and features of the fixed assets and the rolling assets.  As a result, the design, construction and testing for commissioning and use of projects require all the parts to be tested together after all tests are completed on individual systems.

Wayside systems and rail car interfaces include:

Track:              Rail gage – distance between rails and switches, COR spacing with adjacent tracks, and TOR and COR clearances with structures along the ROW need to align with spacing of axle wheels sets for movement of rail cars and on-rail vehicles.

Power:             Substation and signal power equipment, positive cables and negative return cables needs to supply adequate power for wayside and rail car propulsion and to supervisory monitoring system, and the 3rd rail TOR and COR such as height needs to align with rail car contact shoe.

Signals:            Signal generators for coding running rails need to support rail car cab signals, wayside signals for aiding operating engineers in determining and controlling speed, and for correlating track conditions with scheduled train routing.                      

Structures:       Wayside structures need to provide proper vertical - TOR and horizontal – COR clearances for dynamic movements of rail cars at the maximum operating speed for the track geometry and topographic (civil) conditions.

Facilities:         Equipment and tools need to provide TOR and COR clearances matching the outline of rail cars and rail-borne vehicles for inspection, maintenance and repair.

But the linchpin interface for connecting the systems to form a fully integrated and functional transportation system is:


  • Radio systems and network coverage throughout the system connecting qualified operating employees at train operation centers and local control towers, on rail cars and on-rail vehicles, and wayside facilities, including interfaces with positive train control.
  • Cable network connecting telephone and data lines to substations and motor generators; signal huts, equipment and wayside signals; customer information service displays and signage
  • Cable network connecting to traffic safety and security systems, including CCTV and other features for video analytics such as recognition technology for persons, idle packages, vehicle tags and crowding of persons
  • Cable network and wifi equipment to connecting business operating systems, fare collection and ticketing systems, and mobile technology systems to customer cellular applications.

The International Council of Systems Engineers ( describes the integrative approach through the engineering lifecycle as:

The integrative approach has long been used in systems engineering and usually involves either interdisciplinary (e.g.. integrated product teams) or multi-disciplinary (e.g.. joint technical reviews) methods. The integrative approach by itself can be adequate where the situation is not overly complex and there are smaller numbers of stakeholders potentially impacted. The integrative approach can be used when dealing with a highly precedented situation that has been encountered before and a path to the solution can be readily identified and understood (albeit there will still be many challenges along the way, technical and otherwise). The integrative approach includes the traditional multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches commonly used in systems engineering practice. The transdisciplinary approach may be needed in unprecedented situations or where there is a significant degree of complexity involved. See Madni (2018).

System Integration Testing (SIT) commences after all the individual systems are tested and commissioned for alone operation.   The integration scope will encompass all wayside and rail cars working together in unison to verify that all systems are operating as designed and in accordance with Owner and regulatory requirements, such as Federal Transit Administration.  

Per Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Oversight Procedure 54:

System Integration Testing SIT validates that all fixed facilities, systems, and equipment perform as intended, both individually and as an overall system when integrated. The process also confirms that all personnel have the management capacity and capability to provide safe and dependable service, and that emergency drills have been completed prior to revenue operations. For a well-managed project, SIT is integrated into the project master schedule with time-phased activities showing the inter-dependencies between various activities and project milestones.

SIT for projects that are State of Good Repair and Normal Replacement (and some System Improvements) may be adequately covered by a series of Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), and Site Acceptance Testing (SAT), which may include a burn-in period to monitor performance and compatibility.  Most of these type projects use the Owner’s existing and well proven specifications and approved products.  And many railroad systems, such as signals, require extensive pre-testing to support cutovers that are conducted with the system shut down for testing with trains operating without customers to run every possible train route.  As a result, the exposure to risks on these type projects is relatively low impact to the Owner’s existing system and operating plans.  These tests may be sequenced incrementally over several weekend outages to minimize impacts to weekday service plans.

SIT for projects that are System Improvements and Network Expansion, System Integration Testing is larger scope that builds upon FAT and SAT.  These projects can vary from first time applications of new systems or new technology, or are a completely new type infrastructure to the Owner’s existing system or new startup.  Each scenario presents exposure risks on practices and processes for operation, inspection, maintenance and repair.   As a result, SIT will require a larger testing scope.  These type projects have a larger exposure to risks with higher impacts on the commissioning and startup, operating processes, and manpower loading and skills.   This may require longer period of testing to assure all risks are mitigated

SITs will test, measure, analyze and verify compliance to expected results for a comprehensive list conditions that replicate all potential operating scenarios including train routes, train density and passenger car loading.  While dependent on project scope, below is a sample list of SIT test attributes:

Track:              Reliability and durability of switch operations

Power:             Third rail voltage drops and substation/motor generator breaker operation and trip setting

Signals:            Switch point and rod operation, switch position integrity, indications for wayside signal aspects and cab signal speed aspects, and positive train control

Structures:       ROW clearances with dynamic envelopes for rail cars and on-rail vehicles, and operations of vertical transport and building systems

CCTV:    Camera field of view, analytics and indications

Ops Center:     Remote operation of track switches, electrically operated power switches and breakers, camera panning, PA announcements, information message displays, intrusion alarm indications, radio communications with train engineer/conductors, towers, employee facilities, and ROW inspectors and maintenance work crews. 

TIP:    The scope, complexity and duration of SIT is a function of the project classification, scope, division of work between contractors and in-house forces, work conditions and the Owner's experience with similar FTA (government) funded projects.

TIP:    SIT processes, procedures and documentation should be tailored to the Owner's existing organization, quality management system, safety and security program plan and operating plans and procedures.   

TIP:    If the Owner has completed similar projects before, they will be a good source and judge on the SIT completeness and realism of the execution schedule.

TIP:    Owner’s input is essential to assure the SIT is not under-scoped on complex projects or over-scopes on projects that contain well documented and previously used testing processes, procedures and schedules. 

TIP:    SIT schedules need to be consistent with the work conditions in the Contract, which may restrict work hours, require services modifications and shut downs, and need protective services to support the testing.

TIP:    For work performed by in house forces, the SIT, final inspection and determination if the work is safe for service is designated to the on-site qualified and responsible person (s).  The processes, procedures and documentation is well established by the Owner and in compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (government) regulatory requirements for railroad operation.  

For more information, visit:

Procedure 54:

Lessons Learned – Sun Rail (New Start)

MTA Capital Program

International Council for Systems Engineers


Posted on: July 07, 2020 04:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Commissioning & Its Importance on Rail Transit Projects

Recently a colleague in a leadership position on a rail transit project said, they do not understand the importance of testing.    This came after a project meeting, where incorporating more activities for Commissioning Acceptance and Maintenance Plan (CAMP) into the Detailed Contract Schedule (DCS) was discussed.   At the meeting, the feedback from the contractor’s Project Controls leader indicated that activities for inspection, testing and CAMP deliverables should not be in the DCS.   

In a previously posted article regarding Best Practices for Commissioning Acceptance and Maintenance Plan (CAMP), the Commissioning component was described as:  

Commissioning:   This is the pre-requisite activities and deliverables for starting the CAMP package and deliverables for Acceptance, and it is the Buyer’s (Owner) process for verification of project/contract scope and the Seller’s (Contractor) compliance with requirements.    The activities typically include Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), On-Site Acceptance Testing (SAT), In-progress Inspections, Start-Up and Burn-In.   Commissioning activities should be integrated into Project Control schedules and Quality Plans, which contain quality control inspection and test plans.

This article expands on the Commissioning element of the CAMP process and deliverables and it describes the importance on rail transit projects.   The project assets typically include track switches and machines, signal systems, traction power systems, signal power systems, communication systems and security systems.      

Commissioning-Inspection and Testing

Inspections and testing of the contract product and deliverables is essential for demonstrating the work meets the contract and is ready for final acceptance.   The inspection and testing requirements are defined by the Owner or its designated Designer of Record (DOR) in the contract documents and in project plans.

  • Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT):   FAT is applied to high value, long lead, and critical assets that require extreme confidence that the asset will work when installed and interconnected to other products in the project to create an integrated system.    These type assets are usually supplied by specialty contractors to prime contractors for interconnecting all conduits and cables at the project site for operation.   The FAT is performed by the specialty contractors and it is usually witnessed by the prime contractor and other technical experts on the project.  FAT tests can range from several days to nearly a week or more depending on the complexity of test procedures and an action to correct problems.   FATs that require additional time may impact scheduled progress and require adjustments to interdependent activities in the DCS.
  • On-Site Acceptance Testing (SAT):  SAT is the successor to FAT.  SAT replicates much of the FAT and focuses on added testing for verifying operation with interconnected conducts, cable and supervisory systems.   The SAT is performed by the prime contractor and it is usually witnessed by the specialty contractor and other technical experts on the project.   Specialty contractors often provide on-site technical assistance to the prime contractor.   Due to the amount of preparatory pre-testing, SAT tests are usually several days and may require an Owner to make operational changes to accommodate testing.   SATs that require additional time may impact scheduled progress and require adjustments to interdependent activities in the DCS.
  • System Integration Testing (SIT):  SIT  is testing of several critical assets after the pre-requisite predecessor testing, including FAT and SAT.  SIT encompasses verifying asset operation within the overall rail transit system under conditions required to support its service plan, including train movement, passenger movement, customer information and announcements, safety and security monitoring, and central operating centers.   SITs that require additional time may impact scheduled progress and require adjustments to interdependent activities in the DCS.
  • First Article Inspections (FAIs):   FAIs involve testing to prove out design and functionality of components before mass production.   FAIs are usually applied to projects with retrofit scope involving the installation of equipment fleet-wide or system-wide to meet legal, statutory or regulatory requirements.    FAIs are performed at the specialty contractors’ facilities and may be followed by prototype installations on Owner property.   FAIs will create schedule hold points in DCS before specialty contractors will be released for production and delivery of the component.
  • Special Inspections (SIs):   SIs (and testing by independent testing agencies) are applied to project elements of construction such as steel, concrete, masonry, wood, soil, fire resistant materials, mastics, and smoke control, which bridges and buildings.   The SIs scope includes soil conditions, concrete rebar and formwork, concrete condition and strength, welding of structural members, bolting of structural members and fire proof insulation and coatings.   SIs will create schedule hold points in DCS for verifying test results meet requirements before work can proceed. 
  • Inspection and Testing Plans (ITP):   The ITP complements the SIs and covers the full scope of the project as described in the contract drawings and specifications.      ITP consists of the more routine inspections and tests that are part of the project Quality Management Program, which includes the Construction Quality Plan for overseeing the contractor’s workmanship, quality of materials, and compliance with contract drawings and specifications.   ITPs may create hold points in DCS for substantial completion and construction completion milestones, and to CAMP processes and deliverables until non-conformances are repaired, corrected or accepted under conditions by Owner or DOR.

With exception of ITPs, all of the inspections and tests require integration with interdependent construction activities to determine baseline dates.  As construction progress is updated in the DCS, changes in dates for inspections and testing may occur.

Best Practices - Commissioning

  • Projects must have a Project Management Plan covering construction monitoring and quality management with descriptions of scope, personnel, processes, and deliverables (sample Forms).
  • Contractor must have written procedures and deliverables for inspection and testing activities, and a process for monitoring performance and periodically updating plans to reflect scope changes and adjustments due to DCS.  
  • Owner must have a written plan to support contractor inspection and testing plans and with processes for monitoring Commissioning performance and implementing project and contract improvements.  
  • Owner’s project manager, with appropriate support staff, must focus on oversight of the contractor/subcontractors and provide direction to reinforce effective and integrated Quality processes across managerial silos.
  • Owner’s project representatives, or designated consultants, must be very familiar with the Organization and the responsible parties for obtaining and documenting technical feedback on the various inspections and testing for project elements.
  • Owner’s processes for travel arrangements must be flexible and responsive to changes in FAT and SAT dates.  This may be accomplished by implementing advance approvals for baseline dates that contain provisions to change dates without resubmitting arrangements. 

TIP:   Requirements for Project Management Plans can be found at several resources including [Federal Transit Administration] and [Project Management Institute.]

TIP:    On large projects, FATs, SATs and FAIs need to be coordinated to avoid conflicts and to assure personnel and travel arrangements can be available for inspection and testing dates.

TIP:   FATs and SATs require advance review and approvals of the scope and procedures.  At least 60 days notice/submittal reviews prior to the anticipated dates should be shown on the DCS.

TIP:    For project work on system expansions, most of the SIT can be done while maintaining operations on other parts of the system. 

TIP:   For project work that is performed on an operating system, the SIT will need detailed staging and require an Owner to make operational changes to accommodate testing.     

Posted on: June 07, 2020 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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