The case for space: the measurement of capacity utilisation, its relationship with reactionary delay and the calculation of the capacity charge for the British rail network

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

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


rail capacity, congestion, delay, timetable


In Britain, capacity charges are levied on train operators to cover the costs imposed by increased reactionary delays – i.e. the delay that an already late train causes to a following train. These charges are based on the link between capacity utilisation and the level of reactionary delay. An established method for measuring capacity utilisation was adopted called The Capacity Utilisation Index (CUI). In this paper, we propose an alternative methodology based on the theory that the level of reactionary delay will be determined by the minimum gaps that exist between trains. We test this measure with a new data-set for the East Coast Main Line and show that it performs better than CUI. Finally, we comment on the implications of this finding for charging and for the construction of timetables.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them