On 3 April 2022, a big technical disruption caused all of the Dutch trains to come to a standstill. The central control unit was lagging too far behind reality, causing the stewards to lose track of where the trains were. Luckily, PhD candidate at Erasmus School of Economics Rolf van Lieshout has developed a theoretical model with which these kinds of disruptions can be prevented in the future (Trouw, 10 May 2022).
Central control unit
The central control unit, located in Utrecht, works perfectly fine as long as no disruptions occur. However, van Lieshout explains, when disruptions pile up, the system may lag behind reality causing stewards to lose track of where the trains are. Besides the incident on 3 April, this has never occurred previously.
The technical disruption motivated van Lieshout to come up with an alternative. He investigated whether it is possible to switch over to a decentralised decision-making system during such a crisis. This implies, that each station has its own station manager in charge of determining when and in which direction a train leaves. The alternative system was tested using a computer programme. The results are promising and show that both intercity and local trains can continue to run during a disruption of the central control unit, albeit at a lower frequency.
The Dutch Railway Company is aware of the results, and received them positively.