Mathematical algorithms cut train delays

Jun 18, 2013
Mathematical algorithms cut train delays
Credit: Shutterstock

Commuters are already seeing a reduction in delays and waiting times thanks to new software able to adapt railway schedules in real time following unforeseen disruptions.

The software is based on unique algorithms developed by researchers within the ARRIVAL ('Algorithms for Robust and online Railway optimisation: Improving the Validity and reliability of Large scale systems') project.

Traditionally, railway operators have had very little computer assistance to deal with disruptions. And before the ARRIVAL project, there had been surprisingly little research in two different forms of planning: robust and real-time. For railways, a robust plan seeks to optimise planning before operations so that the schedule can absorb disruptions without impacting significantly on journeys.

But even the most robust plan cannot compensate for every disruption, especially if they occur during operations. Real-time planning allows for re-scheduling within strict time limits, sometimes before the full extent of the disruption is known. An effective real-time plan is one that retains as much as possible of the solution that would have been put in place had the entire sequence of been known in advance.

The new software is the result of breakthroughs in three key areas. First, the team developed a new concept - 'recoverable robustness'. Involving mathematics, theoretic modelling and competitive analysis, this is a way of measuring the robustness and recoverability of plans. Second, new models and methods using complex algorithms were created to help operators with delay management. Finally, the team created a central repository for the collection and exchange of real-world data.

The ARRIVAL system was used to draw up a new timetable for the Dutch system, which handles around 5 500 trains each day and is now seen as one of Europe's most efficient railway networks.

In Berlin, waiting time between underground trains was cut from 4 to 2 minutes when the ARRIVAL algorithms were adopted.

According to reports, other countries are also planning to adopt the technology, with trials in Italy having reduced delays by 25 percent.

The results could also be applied in other areas requiring scheduling, such as road traffic navigation systems, industrial workflow systems, e-commerce, grid computing networks and healthcare.

The partners behind ARRIVAL represented 12 universities (from Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland) and the French operator SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français).

Explore further: Team develops faster, higher quality 3-D camera

More information: ARRIVAL arrival.cti.gr/index.php/Main/HomePage

Related Stories

Algorithms provide a model of railway efficiency

May 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you've noticed that Dutch trains experience less delays or that waiting times are shorter on the Berlin underground you can thank a team of European researchers whose advanced algorithms ...

Tracking trains with satellite precision

Feb 26, 2013

Taking a cue from how ESA controls satellites, Spanish railways now have their own high-tech upgrade to keep travellers abreast of when the next train is going to pull into the station.

Power exchange to become more economical

May 13, 2013

Siemens is facilitating the efficient flow of energy between the power network of an electric railway system and the public power grid. The company is delivering 11 gateway power converters to Sweden, Austria ...

Recommended for you

Team develops faster, higher quality 3-D camera

7 hours ago

When Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox in November 2010, it transformed the video game industry. The most inexpensive 3-D camera to date, the Kinect bypassed the need for joysticks and controllers by ...

Researchers finding applications for tough spinel ceramic

17 hours ago

Imagine a glass window that's tough like armor, a camera lens that doesn't get scratched in a sand storm, or a smart phone that doesn't break when dropped. Except it's not glass, it's a special ceramic called ...

Classroom acoustics for architects

Apr 23, 2015

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has published a free online booklet for architects to aid in the application of ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010/Part 1-American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, ...

JRC wins competition on indoor localization

Apr 23, 2015

A team of JRC researchers outperformed 27 teams from academia and industry across the globe and achieved best overall result at a competition on indoor localisation in Seattle, USA. Providing accurate position ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.