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This is how solving train disruptions can be improved

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Travelling by public transport? Big chance that you’re having some trouble today because of the large power outage in Amsterdam. In his PhD research Joris Wagenaar of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University found solutions to improve existing computer models that assist train dispatchers with their decisions in the hectic few minutes after a disruption of service.

For train dispatchers, finding the best quick response to a disruption is like solving a complicated chess problem, says researcher Wagenaar. They have to tackle three matters at the same time; timetable, trains and crews. These three are connected to each other: dispatchers can adapt the timetable, trains can be moved around and train crew can be rescheduled.

Solving this puzzle in real time not only takes a lot of computational power, but also current computer models give only a very crude representation of the planning problem, and often don’t give much practical help. That’s why, just like experienced chess players, train dispatchers still rely on their experience in similar situations to make decisions on the fly. In his research, Wagenaar set out to make existing computer models correspond better to the real challenges train dispatchers face after disruptions.

Curious about these mathematical solutions? Watch this clip and read more!