Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs): A web-based tool to enhance the quality of international timetabling
Posted: 9 February 2018 | Philipp Koiser - RNE | No comments yet
‘Temporary Capacity Restriction’ (TCR) is an umbrella term commonly used in the railway sector. It denotes the various types of construction works and events which lead to a reduction in infrastructure capacity and therefore are a main disruptive factor in timetabling. Philipp Koiser, RNE’s Sales and Timetabling Manager, discusses the functions, benefits and challenges surrounding TCRs…
Particularly in the international context, TCRs play a major role as cross-border traffic is strongly affected by the use of several different planning systems and a lack of communication. Even though TCRs ultimately contribute to establishing a stable rail infrastructure, in the short and medium term they result in numerous re-routed, replaced or even cancelled trains. Passenger and freight traffic are confronted with a reduced quality of transport or even non-communicated delays. The following factors are key in achieving the goal of decreasing the effects of TCRs, while simultaneously increasing the quality and stability of international train timetabling:
- Careful planning of TCRs
- Improved coordination of TCRs among countries
- Publication in due time prior to the annual timetable change.
RailNetEurope (RNE), a European association of Rail Infrastructure Managers (IMs), Allocations Bodies (ABs) and Rail Freight Corridors (RFCs), aim to enhance the quality and efficiency of international rail traffic. The organisation has therefore set up a working group specifically related to TCRs. With regard to the above-stated key factors, the TCR Working Group (TCR WG) decided to create a web-based platform focused on resolving the negative effects triggered by TCRs. Being the first international application tackling TCRs and their consequences, this platform should foster information exchange and the coordination of internationally relevant TCRs, as well as the timely publication of TCRs on the Europe-wide network.
Legal starting situation and project kick-off
The European Union’s regulation concerning international rail freight and their corridors serves as the basis for the coordination of TCRs. Regulation (EU) No 913/2010 stated capacity restrictions must be aligned on corridors. Directive 2012/34/EU in October 2017 extended these requirements to the entire European rail network, leading to RNE’s decision to develop an internationally harmonised approach. Functional specifications of the TCR Tool have been elaborated in the context of the ‘Redesign of the International Timetabling Process’ (TTR) Project, another key project aimed at improving the efficiency of the European railway sector. The tender for the development of the actual tool was won by Frequentis AG/CNS and development started on August 2017.
Functionalities and impact of the TCR Tool
The web-based TCR Tool will cover three fundamental functionalities. Firstly, the tool will give a graphical overview of all TCRs planned, Europe-wide, on the national and international main axes. Within the graphical overview the consequences of TCRs for traffic will be displayed in a customised way. It is important to note that the provided graphical overview will not be exclusively available to IMs but to applicants as well, enabling them to adapt their traffic plans in accordance with TCRs and their impact.
Secondly, the TCR Tool will foster the exchange of crucial information between IMs, providing information about TCRs on the network of neighbouring IMs and the consequent impact on traffic. To this end, a notification system will be implemented to ensure that the data basis is kept up-to-date and that users are continuously informed about potential changes.
Thirdly, the application shall support the harmonisation of TCRs between IMs through a feature which requires mutual approval of new or modified TCRs. Affected IMs therefore need to give their consent in regards to the impact on the availability of capacity for traffic and agree on a timeframe for developing and offering alternative timetables.
Given these major functionalities, the TCR Tool will not only be useful for the coordination and publication of TCRs among IMs but will also generate great value for RUs and applicants, as it provides one single platform on which each applicant can find harmonised information (in contrast to the current situation where there are different Excel lists of various RFCs to be reviewed to assess the impact on traffic plans). In addition, the TCR Tool could even be applied at national level, in particular by smaller IMs who have no national tool available to plan TCRs.
Prerequisites and challenges
One key prerequisite for the successful development of the TCR Tool is international IM support. RNE as the project steering entity, relies on the mobilisation of IM human resources as the IMs shall jointly develop detailed specifications and conduct pilots. Furthermore, the successful deployment of the TCR Tool requires a great commitment to process compliance as the impact on international traffic caused by TCRs can only be reduced by applying the same process rules throughout. Distinguishing TCRs by their different volumes (in terms of affected traffic volume as well as time) is another factor contributing to the complexity of the harmonisation of the TCR planning process. Finally, the high quantity of TCRs and the fact that they are subject to many changes prior to actual operation could be serious obstacles, as these factors add complexity to the process and increase the need for coordination.
Although the TCR Tool has yet to overcome certain challenges in order to succeed, it is already considered a great advancement for the railway sector. Developing the TCR Tool based on a process jointly agreed by IMs and RUs has made it possible to design and implement the release of the first version of the application in a very short period of time. As the first internationally used IT tool to manage, coordinate and communicate TCRs, it will add significant value to the timetabling process by decreasing the negative impacts of TCRs on both passenger and freight traffic.
Philipp Koiser, RNE’s Sales and Timetabling Manager is responsible for creating international processes as Chairman of the Sales & Timetabling and TCR Working Groups. Having brought several projects to a successful conclusion, he currently leads the ‘Redesign of the international timetabling process’ (TTR), whose ambition is to reform international timetabling jointly with FTE (Forum Train Europe) and with the support of ERFA (European Rail Freight Association).