Optimizing the complex railroad system
Within Austria alone, 6,600 trains are on the move every day, and rail traffic—both national and international—is expected to grow further in the future. This ever rising frequency with its increasingly tight time schedules make the system more and more complex.
One effect of this complexity is that delays become more likely. “A railroad is a complex network with thousands of nodes and millions of possibilities of interactions,” explains CSH project manager Vito D.P. Servedio. “The strong interconnectedness means that a delay at one point can spread like a virus throughout the entire system.”
Delays will always happen, you can’t avoid that, says Vito. “But what happens after the delay occured can be optimized.” In a pilot project with the Hub, the OeBB branch responsible for passengers (“OeBB-Personenverkehr AG”) aims at optimizing the schedules following a schedule deviation so that the delay has as little impact as possible on the overall network.
Improve dynamic strategies to reduce delays in overall system
Vito and our new researcher Nicola Cinardi want to develop or improve dynamic strategies so that fewer delays occur in the system overall. For their simulations, they get access to two years of OeBB connection data.
“The OeBB recognizes delays as a key problem that could be solved in a data-based systematic workup,” Johannes Kager, the project manager at OeBB, points out. “We are one of the most punctual railroads in Europe, yet we always want to improve. Due to various influences, there have been increased delays in recent years. In this project, the reasons for the dealys are to be analyzed and reduced,” Kager says.
For the pilot phase, the route Vienna Central Station–Wiener Neustadt was chosen, as it allows to analyze local as well as long-distance traffic.
“Very few people realize how difficult it is to optimize a large network,” train-fan Vito concludes. “That’s why this project is a big—and a great!—challenge for us complexity researchers.”
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