Preparations for the Gautrain are getting into full swing. Already certain busy roads have become even busier and more chaotic as work commences on one of the biggest construction projects in the province’s history. The real impact of the preparations, however, will not only be felt in chaotic traffic patterns but could also affect the business processes of companies in the proximity of new stations and construction sites.
“Companies with existing business continuity plans now need to extend their strategies to include the potential impact of the Gautrain,” says Louise Theunissen, GM Consulting Services at ContinuitySA. “Not only do companies need to adopt a Gautrain business continuity strategy during the construction phase, but they also need to plan for emergencies once the system is fully operational.
"What makes a Gautrain incident different from any in-house disaster for a company is that it will not only affect the company in question, but also a large area surrounding the incident site. The result is that both members of the public and other companies and organisations will be affected at the same time and this compounds the incident even more.”
Theunissen offers 10 points businesses in and around Gautrain routes need to put in place to be “Gautrain ready”.
1 – Appoint a Gautrain coordinator: A coordinator needs to be appointed to monitor the progress of the Gautrain project and ensure the company is prepared for any new impact the project may have on the organisation’s ability to function (registering on the project’s Web site will make it simpler to keep up to date). This person will ensure all business continuity requirements are in place, approved and universally communicated – this includes updating people as to road closures and diversions to ensure they can get to work.
2 – Establish Gautrain information Sources: By registering for regular updates via newsletters such as the Gautrain Rapid Rail Round-up and News Flash, companies can stay abreast of the latest developments and pre-empt potential problems. Simply having an information resource is not enough. The coordinator must also ensure the right information is fed to the right people. A service will soon be available via telephone or Internet in which someone about to take a journey can state their departure and destination points and receive a text message with a route that avoids construction sites. This must be communicated to staff.
3 – Gautrain awareness: As part of the information awareness process, data on the progress of the project should be provided to all staff. Details about the background of the Gautrain, route, stations, and costs, should be mentioned. In addition, traffic rerouting, scheduled utility outages and the like should also be publicised. By making use of the Gautrain, large companies with staff on car allowances can save money by encouraging public transport. However, this data needs to be incorporated into business continuity plans. If a percentage of one’s staff make use of the Gautrain, what happens if the service is down and staff are stranded?
4 – Update business continuity strategy: Depending on the impact on an organisation, there may be a requirement for specific business continuity strategies to be update. Every company periodically examines its business continuity plans to ensure they continue to meet the organisation’s requirements. The Gautrain may bring additional risks into play depending on how close to a station the company is located or how many staff rely on this mode of transport. This is an ongoing process as there will constantly be new issues coming into play, such as new excavations. Regular business continuity policy reviews and communications will ensure these plans remain valid.
5 – Crisis management plans: While most companies have crisis management plans in place, work on the Gautrain may require new evacuation plans, for example, to ensure all staff can leave the building and area quickly if needed. If located close to a station or rail tracks, the organisation needs to ensure updated plans are in place in case of emergencies and that staff are informed.
6 – Plan for the worst: Many business continuity plans may remain the same, but remember that these plans need to take worst-case scenarios into account. Many companies assume that staff will be available when and where needed. What happens if half your workforce is stuck somewhere on a track, or on the highway that can’t move because of some emergency? The best-laid plans are useless without the people to put them into operation.
7 – Off-site recovery: Ensure the organisation has an off-site recovery capability that is tested on a regular basis. Remember, however, that simply having a location where work can continue is not enough. The site must have multiple access points, ample parking, back-up generators in case there is no electricity, sufficient seating and access to IT systems, and access to more than one Telkom exchange.
8 – Ensure all plans are tested: This is one of the most critical aspects of business continuity. All business continuity plans must be tested thoroughly. Moreover, updated plans can not be tested in isolation; organisations need to ensure new strategies work in conjunction with older solutions.
9 – Simulation exercises: Every organisation must schedule regular (at least twice per annum) simulation workshops that include both the management and business continuity teams. These teams need to sit round a table and determine how and under what circumstances the Gautrain could cause problems and if their business continuity plans would deal with the various issues. It’s important to include management in the process because they will need to know what their jobs are, in case of an emergency.
10 – Supply chain issues: Many suppliers could be affected by Gautrain events. Every continuity plan must include a service level agreement (SLA) to ensure suppliers continue to deliver according to contract, no matter what happens. In some cases, it may be prudent to have alternate suppliers on call.