Scheduling and Platforming Trains at Busy Complex Stations

Malachy Carey, S. Carville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


We consider the problem of train planning or scheduling for large, busy, complex train stations, which are common in Europe and elsewhere, though not in North America. We develop the constraints and objectives for this problem, but these are too computationally complex to solve by standard combinatorial search or integer programming methods. Also, the problem is somewhat political in nature, that is, it does not have a clear objective function because it involves multiple train operators with conflicting interests. We therefore develop scheduling heuristics analogous to those successfully adopted by train planners using ''manual'' methods. We tested the model and algorithms by applying to a typical large station that exhibits most of the complexities found in practice. The results compare well with those found by traditional methods, and take account of cost and preference trade-offs not handled by those methods. With successive refinements, the algorithm eventually took only a few seconds to run, the time depending on the version of the algorithm and the scheduling problem. The scheduling models and algorithms developed and tested here can be used on their own, or as key components for a more general system for train scheduling for a rail line or network.Train scheduling for a busy station includes ensuring that there are no conflicts between several hundred trains per day going in and out of the station on intersecting paths from multiple in-lines and out-lines to multiple platforms, while ensuring that each train is allowed at least its minimum required headways, dwell time, turnaround time and trip time. This has to be done while minimizing (costs of) deviations from desired times, platforms or lines, allowing for conflicts due to through-platforms, dead-end platforms, multiple sub-platforms, and possible constraints due to infrastructure, safety or business policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-224
Number of pages30
JournalTransportation Research Part A: General
Volume37 (3)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation

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