Do regular timetables help to reduce delays in tram networks? It depends!

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - tram/light rail, operations - capacity, operations - scheduling, planning - service improvement


Regularity, Optimization, Simulation, Tram network, Schedule design


In public transit planning, regularity of timetables is seen as an important means to improve capacity efficiency by assuring an even trip distribution, as well as to improve product attractiveness and appreciation. This paper focuses on examining whether a regular timetable can also help to reduce network delay, especially resulting from inevitable small disturbances. Following the formulation of a mathematical optimization approach, we propose a number of conditions a network has to fulfill for timetable regularity to have a delay reducing impact. A set of three network properties is identified, which consists of (a) the sharing of resources between tram lines, (b) a low variability of driving times, and (c) the non-redundancy of the network’s central resources. To test the impact of these properties, a series of optimization and simulation experiments is conducted on models of the tram network of the cities of Cologne, Germany, and Montpellier, France. Small disturbances are introduced to the simulated operations to check whether the presence of all three properties is necessary for a network to benefit from a regular timetable. The results show that while with all properties present a regular timetable can indeed help to reduce delays resulting from small disturbances, the non-compliance with any one of the conditions nullifies the impact of regularity on the result.


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