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A sharp increase in train traffic is expected in Europe, partly due to economic growth and a shift from road traffic to rail. This increase in train traffic on our already full network, combined with rapidly changing market demands, requires a different and more dynamic capacity allocation process. ProRail is already preparing for this new process with the Time Table Redesign.

Digitalisation necessary

Crucial to these European ambitions for rail growth are digitisation and automation at the national and European levels. Examples include real-time data communication between the systems of transport operators and infrastructure managers, up-to-date insight into available capacity at a European level and the ability to create a real-time timetable for an international train. The digitisation of infrastructure data and making it available at the European level is essential in this regard. Currently, most players are still working from a national perspective; many people are needed to create timetables and response time is more often a matter of weeks rather than minutes. That’s really out of date.

Digital Capacity Management (DCM) is seen as the development direction to realise a fast and dynamic capacity allocation process within the growth ambitions. All parties involved can prepare for this in the coming years. ProRail is working on this ambition based on the assignment ‘digitalisation of the logistic chain’. European subsidy funds can be used for investments in the transport operators and infrastructure managers’ IT systems.

Timetable within half a minute

s DCM a long way off? Floris Visser, programme manager TTR, says, “DCM is a challenging ambition, which requires a lot of money and time. ProRail’s computer systems must be adapted or perhaps even replaced. It certainly won’t be easy. But on the other hand, we are already seeing good developments in Europe. In Germany and Switzerland, transporters can already use an app to request capacity for a train path from the infrastructure manager, who then delivers a timetable for that train within 30 seconds, without a planner being involved. We want that too.”

“The basis for this is ‘solvers’ who make the offer within the free capacity. We are investigating whether this technology is already a possibility at ProRail. We are aiming for a ‘smart’ system that makes its own real-time timetables unhindered by country or system boundaries. Remember that this technology already exists outside the rail sector. Take Google Maps as an example, which calculates a route within a few moments and always takes into account the current traffic situation.”

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