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, FTE and RNE launched the TTR project. They are being supported by the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA).
The TTR project team – consisting of experts from the fields of market, timetabling, construction works, IT and legal matters, recruited from all parties concerned (RUs, IMs, supporting companies)- took up 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
Based on this input, IMs and RUs then 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. The complete implementation of all TTR components will lead to:
- Improved usage of available infrastructure (increased capacity/quality) and subsequently a higher market share of railway transport in the modal split
- Increased efficiency of IMs and applicants when planning and allocating capacity while minimising the occurrence of redundant work steps
These improvements will translate into considerable financial benefits.
Introducing the redesigned timetabling process
The redesigned timetabling process consists of several components, information on which can also be downloaded here:
- 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
Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs)
The proper coordination and communication of Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs) is a key factor in 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 of works leads to a waste of capacity. The commercial needs of IMs and applicants must 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.
TTR Strategy for the timetabling process
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’and applicants’ but also the national economic interests are harmonised at 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 to become known at a later date. 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.
Allocation rules: Allocation rules 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 side 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 below depicted chronological order:
Additional TTR results
Basic IT analysis
In order to implement the process, IT systems are required that take into account the following aspects:
- A possibility for harmonising TCRs and timetables internationally
- Consultation of Applicants and relevant stakeholders in all process steps
- Centralised capacity data for short response times
- Interconnection between capacity components (e.g. capacity model, requests)
- Interfaces between systems (national and international) to be established to provide for proper communication
- Use of the TAF-TSI framework for data exchange and data modelling
Implementation of the new process
As agreed by the RNE General Assembly (May 2017) and FTE Plenary Assembly (June 2017), TTR will be implemented gradually: Draft Implementation Plan
To successfully implement TTR, several pre-conditions (enablers) need to be established:
- Commercial conditions
The TTR programme is currently developing a set of common commercial conditions and allocation rules as an instrument to steer and harmonise the TTR process. After a simulation and a test, the final set of commercial conditions and allocation rules will be ready for implementation by 2022.
- IT Landscape
TTR also requires the development of IT systems. In light of the capacity approach and the need for digitalisation, an expert team is working on the definition of the required tools and modules. The first draft of the TTR IT Landscape will be ready in October 2018, and will include the migration of existing tools and the creation of new modules in order to achieve one common IT solution by 2024.
- Legal framework
TTR must be supported by the legal framework. For this purpose, pragmatic solutions shall be applied, such as contracts, Network Statements and other legal frameworks like the FCA. The implementation of TTR does not require a massive adaption of the European legal framework (‘railway package’) – see also ‘Legal analysis TTR challenges and possible solutions’.
How will we test and implement TTR?
With the results of TTR conceptualisation having been approved in mid-2017, the gradual implementation of this new process has started. As a first step, the process will be subjected to test runs.
Starting with timetable period 2020, three European lines on and around Rail Freight Corridors will conduct operational pilots:
- Mannheim – Miranda de Ebro (Atlantic RFC – contact: Michel Dupuis)
- Antwerp – Rotterdam (RFC North Sea – Mediterranean – contact: Mr Floris Visser and Freddy Van Der Cruyssen)
- Munich – Verona (RFC ScanMed – contact Andri Kopperschmidt)
The goal is to test the innovative components – especially the Rolling Planning request method and the capacity model – and gain insights to aid the development and improvement of common mechanisms (e.g. commercial conditions, allocation rules), change management and IT systems. Preparations have already started, and the capacity model is currently being defined.
In timetable period 2021, the pilots will be expanded to the entire core network of ÖBB Infrastructure. The three pilot lines already in operation will continue their activities. Neighbouring IMs will also be invited to join the pilot.
The existing three pilot lines will continue with the implementation of the commercial conditions, improvement of potential detected pressure points, and further development of IT systems. Furthermore, they will also test the multi-annual aspects of TTR
Between timetable periods 2021 and 2024, neighbouring IMs will be asked to gradually include their lines in the pilot. Enablers (commercial conditions, IT landscape, legal framework) will be created, adopted and improved simultaneously. Based on findings from previous pilot activities, the process itself will also be continuously improved. Quick wins discovered in the course of the project will immediately be implemented Europe-wide, if feasible.
It is planned that by timetable period 2025, the pilots will have transitioned into full implementation of TTR.
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 various European meetings connected 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 from the TTR Team.