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A Simulation-Optimization Approach for Improved Robustness of Railway Timetables

Time: Wed 2019-12-04 10.15

Location: B26, Brinellvägen 23, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Transport Science Transport Systems

Doctoral student: Johan Högdahl , Transportplanering

Opponent: Professor Alireza Ahmadi, Luleå tekniska universitet

Supervisor: Adjungerad Professor Markus Bohlin, Transportplanering; Docent Oskar Fröidh, Transportplanering

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The timetable is an essential part for the operations of railway traffic, and its quality is considered to have large impact on capacity utilization and reliability of the transport mode. The process of generating a timetable is most often a manual task with limited computer aid, and is known to be a complex planning problem due to inter-train dependencies.

These inter-train dependencies makes it hard to manually generate feasible timetables, and also makes it hard to improve a given timetable as new conflicts and surprising effects easily can occur.

As the demand for railway traffic is expected to continue grow, higher frequencies and more saturated timetables are required. However, in many European countries there is also an on-going public debate on the punctuality of the railway, which may worsen by increased capacity utilization. It is therefore also a need to increase the robustness of the services. This calls for increased precision of both the planning and the operation, which can be achieved with a higher degree of automation.

The research in this thesis is aimed at improving the robustness of railway timetables by combining micro-simulation with mathematical optimization, two methods that today are used frequently by practitioners and researchers but rarely in combination. In this research a sequential approach based on simulating a given timetable and re-optimizing it to reduce the weighted sum of scheduled travel time and predicted average delay is proposed. The approach has generated promising results in simulation studies, in which it has been possible to substantially improve the punctuality and reduce the average delays by only increasing the advertised travel times slightly. Further, the results have also indicated a positive socio-economic benefit. This demonstrates the methods potential usefulness and motivates further research.