RISE ICT stories: More Trains on Malmbanan a Prerequisite for LKAB’s Expansion

Malmbanan is the backbone of LKAB’s logistics system. The ability to transport more along this line, which is currently believed to be operating at full capacity, is a crucial element of the company’s planned expansion. RISE SICS identified opportunities for optimizing timetables, enabling more trains can run on the route.

Malmbanan is one of Sweden’s most trafficked railways. It stretches from Boden to Riksgränsen, and then onward to Narvik in Norway. Malmbanan is heavily congested and many argue that it is at its service limit. But LKAB asked: Is it possible to schedule additional trains? And, if so, what would the consequences be?

A significant share of current timetable planning is done manually, based on established knowledge and long experience. The challenge our team faced was to see if an advanced optimization system could provide a more efficient timetable. They used the existing timetable as a starting point and implemented Marackasen, a timetable optimization tool that SICS and Trafikverket (The Swedish Transport Administration) have developed together. The team tested possibilities for increasing the number of trains on the route, and project manager Martin Joborn was pleased with the results.

“We have shown that it is possible to increase core-transport traffic to and from Narvik to 16 trains paths per day, while actually decreasing running time for other traffic. We also saw that certain basic principles used in planning traffic on the Malmbanan line limit its capacity, and by compromising on these principles, more trains can be fit into the schedule. That was a very important lesson,” said Martin Joborn.

This insight has been a valuable piece of the puzzle in LKAB’s planning. An advanced optimization tool, like Marackasen, could be an important aid for manual timetable planning. Martin Joborn anticipates that RISE SICS will work with Trafikverket and LKAB when they begin the timetable scheduling process for 2016.

Martin Joborn is a researcher with RISE SICS and one of Sweden’s leading experts in train service optimization. He leads the major industry program KAJT (Capacity in the Railway Traffic System), which includes the participation of Trafikverket (The Swedish Transport Administration), researchers and industry leaders.

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