Green light for a more stable timetable and better customer information in Swiss public transport.

In the smartrail 4.0 programme, the Swiss rail industry is working together to develop a new traffic management system for integrated planning and control of train traffic. Now smartrail 4.0 has been able to demonstrate its feasibility for the first time by way of a simulation. From 2022, customers will benefit from more connections, which will be more punctual, as well as more precise and swift information.

Switzerland has the most densely used rail network in Europe. The aim of the smartrail 4.0 industry programme is to further increase the already high capacity utilization of passenger and freight traffic by up to 30 percent with the existing infrastructure. With the smartrail 4.0 programme, SBB, BLS, Schweizerische Südostbahn AG (SOB), Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Swiss Public Transport Union (Verband öffentlicher Verkehr, VöV) are working together to bring the railway into the digital future. They want to lower costs and increase capacity, punctuality and safety standards. An important element here is a new integrated traffic management system which connects today’s railway production systems - from long-term and short-term timetable planning to train traffic management. 

Work on this began in 2017 and up to 100 people were working on this project at times. The feasibility of the project could be demonstrated for the first time in late 2018 using a simulation. In this way, several hours of a timetable were calculated and optimised, as the new traffic management system is capable of generating multiple solutions within seconds and communicating these to other systems - for example in cases of deviations from the timetable due to a disruption. It helps employees to find the most customer-friendly option swiftly, to control traffic accordingly and to inform the customers. At the same time, track network capacity can be better utilised, as the system continuously tests the timetable for critical situations during its creation and can resolve them. This increases the timetable’s stability and is an important requirement for utilising the existing infrastructure in a more efficient way. Passengers will benefit from more connections overall, which will be more punctual, as well as more precise and swift information. 

Since the simulation was carried out successfully, the new traffic management system is now being implemented. The goal is for it to be implemented in stages and to replace today’s systems by 2028. A first intermediate target is short-term timetable planning, for which the traffic management system is to be in use as of late 2022. Employee job descriptions in timetable planning and train traffic management will gradually change with the use of the new traffic management system. Extremely monotonous and manual work will cease and employees will instead need to be more highly skilled in the ideal use of network capacity and the identification of the most customer-friendly solutions in the event of disruptions. The industry programme is developing these skills in a dialogue with railway employees and will provide them with ongoing support in the future. 

smartrail 4.0.

smartrail 4.0 is a joint industry programme involving SBB, BLS, Schweizerische Südostbahn AG (SOB), Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Swiss Public Transport Union (SPTU). The partners want to exploit the potential of new technologies and digitalisation to steadily increase capacity and improve safety further, use the railway infrastructure more efficiently, save costs and thus maintain the railway’s competitiveness in the long term. Customers will gradually begin to benefit from more trains, denser timetable intervals, fewer disruptions, faster wireless connectivity and better information in the event of disruptions.

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