Standardization of capacity unit for headway-based rail capacity analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, infrastructure - vehicle, operations - capacity, economics - finance, planning - travel demand management


Rail transportation, Capacity analysis, Base train equivalents


Determining the required capacity upgrades to accommodate future demand is a critical process in assisting public and private financing of capacity investments. Conventional railway systems usually operate multiple types of trains on the same track. These different types of trains can exert substantially different capacity impact, and can cause serious operational conflicts. In the past, rail line capacity is commonly defined as the maximum number of trains that can be operated on a section of track within a given time period. However, a specific unit (trains/hr or trains/day) does not reflect the heterogeneity of train types. According to the concept of base train equivalents (BTE) and base train unit (BTU), this study developed headway-based models to determine BTE for transforming different train types into a standard unit (i.e., BTU). An approximate method for lines with three and more types of trains was also proposed to compute BTEs for non-base trains. Results from the case studies demonstrate that this method enables the standardization of rail capacity unit, facilitates assessment of the impact from heterogeneous trains, and allows comparison and evaluation of the capacity measurements from different lines and systems.


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


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