RISE ICT stories: Total Make-over of the Swedish Railroad Traffic Planning Process

While the use of fixed and detailed time schedules valid for more than a year in advance remained sound in a world with only one planner/producer, it has become outdated in the new era of multiple train companies operating in an open market. Inspired by modern industry production concepts such as Lean Production and Just-In-Time, RISE SICS has developed an entirely new planning process for the Swedish Transport Administration, resulting in more flexibility and cost-savings for the train operators. “This is a paradigm shift for us,” says Hans Dahlberg at the Swedish Transport Administration.

As of today, there are 30 railway companies operating on the Swedish railroads. Just a few years ago, there was only one – SJ (still the largest train operator in the country). In that regard, Sweden is one of the first countries in the world to open up its railroad infrastructure for competition among train operators, covering both goods and passenger traffic. In order to fulfill the advantages of the open market system and to be more responsive to customer demand, the rigid scheduling process had to be subjected to a total make-over. It was SICS who made the first move and proposed a joint project.

Earlier, we had developed solutions that optimize the production processes for companies in several industry sectors. We realized that we could use the same methods in this context,” explains Martin Aronsson at SICS.

More responsive for customer demand

The Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for coordinating the operators’ applications for traffic and to work out a time schedule for all trains in the country. The grand shift in the new planning process provided by SICS is to divide the planning process into two separate parts, one for the delivery commitment (essential for customers), and the other for the more detailed production plan. This way, it becomes easier to make changes during an ongoing time schedule period and the planning efforts can stay focused on what creates value. One example: The distance Stockholm–Gothenburg has 73 spots that have to be managed and planned in the production process, but only three of them are essential in the commitment process. By using the two-step model, it’s possible to be more responsive to customer demand and at the same time avoid detailed planning that is not used.

For the Swedish Transport Administration, the new planning process is pervasive.

It’s hard to give exact figures, but we estimate that 10 to 12 percent of the amount of time trains stand still waiting for the go-ahead signal can be eliminated. Today, a transport company like Green Cargo waits 40,000 hours a year. It’s harder to assess what a passenger train being on time instead of being an hour late means for the public welfare”, says Hans Dahlberg at the Swedish Transport Administration.

The implementation of the new planning process has started and it will be ready to use in 2015. SICS has a central role also during implementation.

Project partners

RISE SICS and The Swedish Transport Administration

Read more

Tågplan 2015: Timetabling with optimized infrastructure utilization and transportation quality

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