Optimal inter-area coordination of train rescheduling decisions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - coordination, operations - scheduling, mode - rail, place - europe


Train Delay Minimization, Schedule Coordination, Bilevel Programming


Railway dispatchers reschedule trains in real-time in order to limit the propagation of disturbances and to regulate traffic in their respective dispatching areas by minimizing the deviation from the off-line timetable. However, the decisions taken in one area may influence the quality and even the feasibility of train schedules in the other areas. Regional control centers coordinate the dispatchers’ work for multiple areas in order to regulate traffic at the global level and to avoid situations of global infeasibility. Differently from the dispatcher problem, the coordination activity of regional control centers is still underinvestigated, even if this activity is a key factor for effective traffic management.

This paper studies the problem of coordinating several dispatchers with the objective of driving their behavior towards globally optimal solutions. With our model, a coordinator may impose constraints at the border of each dispatching area. Each dispatcher must then schedule trains in its area by producing a locally feasible solution compliant with the border constraints imposed by the coordinator. The problem faced by the coordinator is therefore a bilevel programming problem in which the variables controlled by the coordinator are the border constraints. We demonstrate that the coordinator problem can be solved to optimality with a branch and bound procedure. The coordination algorithm has been tested on a large real railway network in the Netherlands with busy traffic conditions. Our experimental results show that a proven optimal solution is frequently found for various network divisions within computation times compatible with real-time operations.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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