How to react to disruptions on a railroad?

02/06/2016
Blog

Rail transport systems are prone to experience delays and incidents that generate impact on the trains’ traffic. Furthermore, railroads have a great amount of interconnected variables that amplifies the chance of something going wrong. Indeed, one single and punctual flaw at a given point of the rail network may affect the entire system, thus damaging the railroad results.

As an example of the mentioned above, let us consider an engineer who has to take a train at a given time and place. In case he/she shows up 30 minutes late, the train in question will be delayed. As a result, the entire plan is affected, since there is a dependency between the trains in the network. The train leaving late will cause impacts not only on its destination terminal, but also on the movements of other trains. Once the problem is foreseen, the train dispatcher will have to do a new circulation plan. However, at the time of producing a new plan, there may be other impacts on the movement of trains due to the large amount of resources involved (locomotives, wagons, engineers, routes, etc.), making it difficult for the operator to produce more and more plans every moment.

Thus, we can see that, even more important than making a great train circulation plan is to have the ability to promptly react, i.e., make a new plan, as the scenario may change completely. If a change in the plan is not done in order to cope with the new scenario in a timely manner, the railroad will face unnecessary delays: trains will be stopped for no reason and terminals will (get short of supplies) experience shortages. In addition, this has an extremely high cost to the railroads and their customers. After all, in the railroad industry, losing time is literally losing money!

Consider a mining company that has to transport its product routinely from the mine to the terminal. Therefore, on a daily basis, the product has to be loaded at the mine, carried by a train until its destination and unloaded, so the train, with its wagons empty, can travel back to the mine to start a new transportation cycle. The goal of the railroad is to make the transport cycle within an established time span, so more cycles per month the higher the profit. If trains cycle times increase, less cycles will be done, undermining the production goal. This may happen due to an inappropriate train circulation plan. Thus, a quick generation of circulation plans that meet the transport cycles defined is critical to the success of the railroad operations.

That is what CFlex Movement Planner does! As a GPS starts “recalculating route” as soon as drivers go off the route, so it does the application. For example, if you are going to a meeting in an unknown place and misses a turn, GPS quickly retraces your route. As good as having previously planned the path to your destination is to have the capability to correct, in a timely manner, the problem of having got lost. The CFlex Movement Planner (CMP) does exactly that: it produces a circulation plan for your railroad, rapidly adjusting the plan in case the aforementioned incidents appear. The value of this is huge: you can react quickly giving a solution without losing sight of your main objective.

CMP is a mature application built with expertise acquired from operations in several railroad types. It is totally applicable to any type of operation, whether integrated systems, passenger railroads or general cargo. CMP needs 5 seconds to generate a circulation plan, with a high quality standard and fully aligned with the railroad business objectives. CFlex Movement Planner can work in an autonomous way, automatically receiving all information from other existing systems in the control center. It generates circulation plans where the optimization of the trains running times is permanent, thus reducing delays and increasing the adherence to the transport cycle time. The circulation plans generated by CMP provide, through better meet-pass plans, better track occupation, therefore increasing railroad capacity.

See for yourself the effectiveness of CFlex Movement Planner! Please contact our team, do a demonstration of the solution in a section of your own network. Prove actual gains in your own railroad!

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CFlex counts on support of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), through the grant 2015 / 50478-0, for the development of improvements in its product CFlex Movement Planner.
The opinions, assumptions and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this site are the sole responsibility of CFlex and do not necessarily reflect the vision of FAPESP.