Interview: Victoria Svedberg, SICS

Victoria Svedberg, Researcher at SICS Swedish ICT

Maths Is Fun And Really Useful!

Proof Victoria Svedberg's career began with a strong interest in theoretical mathematics. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Physics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology she went on to study optimization and systems theory, attracted by the opportunity to work with applied mathematics. Now she holds a position as a Ph.D. student at SICS and expects to graduate in 2019. Her doctoral thesis is about the optimization of rail traffic, an area spanning both mathematics and economics. To achieve this, she is developingalgorithms to find the perfect balance between political valued benefits andcosts: How much is frequent commuter traffic worth? How can we use limited resources wisely?

Victoria is passionate about the opportunity to streamline public services withthe help of mathematics.

"There are so many public resources that can be used more efficiently with the help of computerized optimization. This area is a gold mine to explore", she says

Optimization Of Rail Traffic – Maths And Politics

There is no doubt that computers are superior when it comes to calculating large data sets and optimization with constraints. SICS has developed methods that can optimize the entire railway timetable in Sweden automatically and within minutes. But reality is full of soft values that have to be taken into account when streamlining public services. Good results are achieved by finding a balance between societal needs and mathematical optimization.

How can track time be distributed between competing companies and needs in a deregulated market? The basic rule is to squeeze in as many trains as possible while at the same time maintaining important social services, such as commuter traffic. But what do you do when many trains need the same time slot?

SICS’ job is to optimize the use of the rails, which is done in several steps. SICS suggests that a certain part of the track time is booked up for commuter trains as early as five years in advance. Based on existing traffic data and the results of existing methods for socio-economic valuation, SICS can calculate how these fixed bookings must be placed in the time-tables to keep as much flexibility as possible for other trains. This is to ensure that important social services are maintained without taking up too much space for long distance trains, freight and even track maintenance. The most sought-after rail space that is not booked for commuter trains could then be distributed between competing operators such as MTR and SJ by auction. The remainder would be released on a spot market where operators can book later on. Here, the project will assist with methods that ensure that the auction and spot markets are fair and transparent. This increases the flexibility for the operators, and future freight traffic can be rescheduled on a daily basis if needed.

This interview was published in our annual report 2015.