Small BeginningsThe HOPS Project started in the rosters office of the signalling department at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway in August 2009.
The task of rostering the signalmen was undertaken using paper and e-mail collection of availability, manual production of rosters, and distribution as Word Documents, etc. The process worked, as it did and does on many other heritage railways, but it was slow, time consuming, and inefficient. With a growing railway, a growing number of locations to man, and a growing number of staff to roster, a new solution was needed.
Solution RequiredWe are lucky that it was realised at the time, before HOPS was even invented, that the issues facing the department then were duplicated around the railway and around the industry, and that they could only get worse as the industry continued to grow. It was considered as part of the specification for the problem that the solution should work across multiple departments and multiple railways. The magnitude of the task as it deveolped made it too much work to be just for the benefit of one railway.
With this in mind, ever since the first line of code for HOPS was written it has been one of the key principles of the system that it was for use on multiple railways. This meant that the system had to be much much more flexible than just to meet the needs of the GWR, it needed to meet unknown needs, a formidable task indeed.
DevelopmentThe programming of HOPS started in August 2009 on the rostering functions. By January 2010 it was ready to be opened to a small testing group of GWR volunteers for the first few months of 2010. The reception was excellent. In the spring of 2010 HOPS Rostering was rolled-out to the rest of the signalling department at the GWR. In the summer of 2010 the rostering of the Duty Operations Officers' was brought online, and further components of the system were introduced to assist the DOOs in their duties (such as short-notice cover, etc).
At the end of 2010 it was decided by the Operations Director of the GWR that the railway would promote HOPS as its preferred method of rostering on the railway, and the diesel department, the station staff and the guards and TTIs all signed-up to HOPS for the 2011 season.
Towards the end of 2010, some other heritage railways made enquiries about the use of HOPS (even though we still weren't really open to new railways yet). One of these was the South Devon, who requested us to produce an assessment module, where staff could take online tests, which we did.
A really significant breakthrough came in December 2010, when we reached the stage where we could complete our automatic rostering functions. It is now possible to completely automate the functions of collecting availability from staff and assigning them to turns in the roster. A process that used to take a human being several hours now takes 1 minute's work to set up, and then 5 seconds' work to implement. A massive contribution that HOPS has made to the heritage railway industry.
TodayIn January 2011 HOPS opened its doors for the world to share its skills. We now welcome new railways to enjoy the tools and facilities of HOPS, we hope we can help more railways to take greater command of their operations, to make some of the more laborious jobs a bit easier, and to learn from new contacts in new railways to conitnually develop HOPS for everyone's benefit. Please see the Join HOPS tab, above, for information on how to do just that.
There are now 4529 registered HOPS users at 78 heritage railway centres, administrating 8067 operational staff through HOPS.
If you would like more information about HOPS, please contact us.