Life Cycle Costs and their limits of meaning

Life Cycle Costs are trendy again. At least in the railway sector. They were trendy in the late 90ies too. Unfortunately data quality was not ready then. What is important this time to take the chance and set up a really good grasp of our infrastructure costs. Don’t forget there are vehicles running on it.

First, LCC in rails has almost nothing to do with controlling real costs. In my opinion LCC is more a strategic benchmark in a way you compare defined scenarios an whether they pay off or not over a longer period. This makes sense, as infrastructure has to be provided infinitely as far as we know now. Money on the other side is limited in annual budget constraints. So we have to know if we can afford maintenance and renewal as far as we can know something about the future. LCC can then support decisions on a strategic level. For example, it is not always clear what the best moment for Re-Investment or upgrading is. A lot of questions about lost effort, new reference state, future working load and not to realise alternatives have to be answered. LCC can help not to lose orientation here.
Second, LCC supports a wider view, as boundary conditions in Form of RAMS (Reliability, availability, Maintainability, Safety) make scenarios kind of objective and comparable and show personal and material needs properly.
Third, no illusions about decission and control mechanisms. If LCC shows that a realised alternative of e.g. superstrucure is performing suboptimal, it is too late. Changing superstructure will take some decades.So, you’ll never eat lunch in this town again.

Performance of new systems is – in reality – not clear.

Last, knowing LCC needs a lot of Data, an idea of strategic planning and maintaining systems. So, first step is always have people who know their systems and the reasons why they degrade and fail. Second their knowledge should be reflected by monitoring data and prediction models. LCC can then support men’s thought by illustrating consequences of long running decisions.

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