Redesign of the international Timetabling Process

Redesign of the international Timetabling Process (TTR)

Incomplete harmonisation of timetabling procedures between European countries makes it difficult to cooperate at international level. To remedy this unsatisfactory situation, both RailNetEurope – RNE and Forum Train Europe – FTE agreed that changes to these procedures are needed. These two organisations are united in their goal to improve the timetable planning process. Thus, a joint FTE-RNE project was launched, which is supported by the European Rail Freight Association – ERFA.

TTR Animation from RailNetEurope on Vimeo.

The TTR project team – consisting of experts in in the fields of market, timetabling, construction works, IT, legal matters recruited from all parties concerned (RUs, IMs, supporting companies)- faced the challenge by asking the market to spell out its needs, which are:

  • Flexibility, especially in the freight sector
  • Possibility for earlier commercial use of paths, e.g. earlier ticket sales
  • Reduction of peak loads and redundant work
  • Higher stability and quality of timetables
  • etc.

Based on this input, IMs and RUs started to define the possible approaches for a new process. After several years of planning in the TTR project, the redesigned timetabling process finally took shape as an innovative and market-oriented process.

A business case that was based on the TTR project results, demonstrated a most positive effect on the European railway sector, especially in terms of financial benefits due to a higher market share on the European transport market and reduced costs due to increased efficiency in timetabling.

Introducing the redesigned timetabling process

The redesigned timetabling process consists of several components:

  • Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs)
  • Timetabling strategy and advanced planning
  • Capacity model with capacity partitioning
  • Request method “Annual request”
  • Request method “Rolling Planning request”
  • General process components
    • Leading entities
    • Priority rules
    • Commercial conditions
    • KPIs

Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs)

The proper coordination and communication of temporary capacity restrictions (TCRs) is a key factor for the provision of reliable capacity information, based on which high quality paths can be created. Although works are important for keeping the infrastructure in good shape, bad coordination leads to a waste of capacity. The commercial needs of IMs and applicants have to be considered. The planning of TCRs starts as early as 5 years prior to the timetable change, with iterations leading to the maturity needed for the capacity model at X-12, and defining major, medium and minor impact TCRs. Even after X-12, the planning of minor impact TCRs continues and unforeseen TCRs need to be included.

Timetabling strategy and advanced planning

A more precise planning of timetables must include the creation of a capacity strategy. Such a strategy should provide insight into the IMs’ and applicants’ intentions for the upcoming timetable periods, including the management of traffic streams. It is also necessary to analyse traffic flows, taking into account the available infrastructure. Therefore, the careful planning of TCRs shall result in a well-balanced strategy in which IMs’, applicants’ but also the national economic interests are harmonised at an international level.

Capacity model with capacity partitioning

The key characteristic of the redesigned timetabling process lies in the consolidation of all known capacity elements (available capacity, expected traffic volume, etc.) into a single entity: The capacity model. In this model, all data regarding a specific timetable period will be available by X-12 and based on this data, the creation of the actual timetables should start. Being the core element of the pre-planning phase, the model’s main function is to display available capacity and partition the expected traffic according to its attributes. It also safeguards capacity for Rolling Planning requests and provides basic information to all timetabling process stakeholders.

Request method “Annual request”

For traffic which is defined in detail long before operation starts and which requires early contracting for commercial and competitive reasons, it is essential to provide feedback as early as possible. For this purpose, the annual timetable requests offer the possibility of early requests and early response. Due to the possibility that it might not be feasible to meet an early deadline, but traffic itself follows similar patterns, such requests can also be placed at a later time, making use of residual capacity.

Request method “Rolling Planning request”

In order to meet market requirements, the TTR project has identified the urgent need for a requesting method for traffic with details known at a later time. The Rolling Planning was created to be able to request paths at any time and to still provide high quality paths. The Rolling Planning is based on safeguarded capacity, which is dedicated to later requests and which is assigned to this purpose in the capacity model. Quick response times and multi-annual request validity should provide the flexibility necessary in order to react to the volatile market while at the same time still providing stability for upcoming timetable periods.

General process components

Some of the components to be implemented need to be considered throughout the entire process.

Leading entities: For each process step it is important to have clearly assigned responsibilities. A leading entity is required to steer the process and to ensure that agreements are being made and deadlines are being met.

Priority Rules: Priority rules are rules to determine the highest priority in case of conflicting bids. Such rules are necessary to provide the IMs with the means to determine which aspect of a potential conflict to focus on and to provide the best possible solution.

Commercial conditions: In order to steer the process, to prevent misuse from any side, and to encourage the use of the correct tools provided in the process, commercial conditions will apply. It is essential to note that TTR does not harmonise the monetary value of commercial conditions but provides a framework which can be applied without exception throughout Europe in order to eliminate the confusing variety of ways commercial conditions have been established.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): TTR will provide a timetabling process that is as close to reality as possible. However, this also requires monitoring and improvements. To measure the effectiveness of the process, KPIs will be applied.

Process Timeline overview

In order to be used in a consistent way the TTR process will follow the following timeline:

Additional TTR results

Basic IT analysis

In order to implement the process, IT systems that take into account the following aspects are required:

  • Possibility for harmonising TCRs and timetables internationally has to be provided.
  • Consultation of applicants and relevant stakeholders in all process steps is required.
  • Centralised capacity data is necessary for quick response times.
  • Interconnection between capacity components (e.g. capacity model, requests)
  • Interfaces between systems (national and international) have to be established to provide for proper communication.
  • Using the TAF-TSI framework for data exchange and data modelling.

Implementation plan

As described, it is necessary to gradually transfer the current timetabling process to the defined target state. Therefore, it is necessary to define all actions necessary for each element to reach its target state, analysing the legal, IT and organisational requirements.

Additionally, experience needs to be gained in order to improve the proposed process prior to a comprehensive roll-out. This will be achieved through pilots. To execute improvements of the process, a change management process will be implemented.

Contact point and information events

Of course, the TTR project team provides all required information to the stakeholders concerned. Therefore, we will present this subject at the various European meetings with connection to timetabling. You may contact the TTR project team regarding the next possibility to get this information first hand.

More information about TTR and its impact on other railway stakeholders can be requested at the TTR Team.

Philipp Koiser

Sales & Timetabling Manager
Phone : +43 1 907 62 72 15

Peter Jäggy

FTE Secretary General
Phone: +41 79 760 82 66