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Algorithms Provide a Model of Railway Efficiency


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rail network

Credit: Bloomberg News

The European Union-funded ARRIVAL project, a collaboration of researchers from seven European countries, has developed algorithms that can optimize planning and scheduling in complex rail networks. ARRIVAL researchers say their algorithms will enable railways to have more trains, passengers, and goods travel on the same infrastructure, while improving punctuality, passenger satisfaction, and operator profit.

"The new timetable, drawn up using the ARRIVAL algorithms, has meant that trains can be scheduled more efficiently and disruptions handled more effectively, while maintaining the usual security measures," says University of Patras professor Christos Zaroliagis.

Two optimized planning approaches led to the efficiency gains. Robust planning involves deploying algorithms to ensure that all parts of the railway network are organized as efficiently as possible. Online planning takes a reactive approach, dealing with disruptions as they happen in real time. Zaroliagis says the technology also has applications in other sectors. "Our algorithms could benefit industrial work-flow systems, e-commerce, P2P, and grid computing networks and even healthcare," he says.

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