Simulation of Railway Networks


For the coming years, public transport by train is expected to grow steadily worldwide. Railway companies, especially in high-populated areas, face multiple challenges regarding this growth. The main challenge is to optimize rail infrastructure, maximize rail utilization and satisfy both passengers and freight operators. Solutions to this challenge are constraint by safety regulations and the wish for energy efficiency.

Simulation has been proven to be an indispensable decision support tool for solving these challenges. Simulators are a key tool for rail network managers when performing for example punctuality and robustness analysis of train schedules. Simulation is also used by rail network managers for safety, capacity and energy analysis of (future) infrastructure.

For more than 23 years INCONTROL has been working on the development of customized railway-traffic simulators using the Enterprise Dynamics (ED) simulation platform. During these years, INCONTROL has become an expert in railway simulation, understanding the concepts and systems that are relevant to railway operation. By uniting the ED platform with customer applications, tooling and datasets, INCONTROL creates large scale microscopic multi-purpose railway simulators, which can be used for

  • Simulation studies (Use simulation to support the design/construction and optimization of train schedules, track occupation and energy efficiency),
  • Innovation support (Evaluate the effect of innovative measures and systems before putting them into practice),
  • Serious gaming (Train employees and evaluate procedures and processes during large-scale multi-application gaming sessions, using a distributed simulation environment).
  • Communication purposes, for example informing management, staff and customers about the effects of the introduction a new timetable

Simulation Studies: Railway optimization

INCONTROL’s latest Dutch railway simulator developed for ProRail, the Dutch infrastructure manager, allows users to simulate and visualize large networks on microscopic level. The Flexible Rail Infra Simulation of Operations (FRISO) supports users by automatic generation of a complete simulation model from company data sources containing

  • Infrastructure data (e.g. tracks, signals, switches, routes and slopes),
  • Rolling stock data (acceleration and braking, “circulation”),
  • Train schedules (arrivals, departures and connections).
  • Traffic control configuration data

Simulation models may also be altered or designed by hand, allowing users to create (variants of) existing train schedules and rail infrastructure without any effort.

FRISO models virtually all aspects of a railway network. Signals, interlocking, switches and intersections work according to their real-world characteristics. FRISO supports both the Dutch NS’54 and European ERTMS safety systems and implements the ATB-NG and ETCS train protection systems. The movement of trains in FRISO is modelled according to their physical characteristics and external factors (slopes, resistance and power supply). The effect of human factors on the operations is modelled by different kinds of train operators and train dispatcher agents. Together, these components form a realistic railway simulator.

Output components like train graphs (distance/time, speed/distance & height/distance) and track-occupation diagrams allow the user to evaluate the quality of train schedules and infrastructure easily. Extended logging on the other hand allow users to create their own visualisations and perform statistical calculations/analysis on the simulated realisation data.

Development and Evaluation of New Innovative Measures and Systems: TMS, ATO and ERTMS

FRISO can transmit and receive real-time information about the state of trains and infrastructure. Using this information, train operation (train driver and guard) and train dispatching tasks can be taken over by external applications. For example, the Traffic Management System (TMS), a system designed to optimize traffic and improve punctuality, safety and or energy consumption levels in a local area by means of advisory speeds, re-ordering and re-routing of trains, can be connected to FRISO. The TMS achieves these goals by monitoring traffic, detecting future conflicts, rescheduling and optimization of speed profiles. Using FRISO, TMS variants can be compared and optimized before being used in practice.

To investigate the differences that exist among train drivers, several train driver models have been implemented, including an energy-efficient and a plan-based train driver. The most accurate train driver model is an agent-based model that is created using realisation data. Similarly, FRISO allows rail network managers to study the effects of the introduction of Automatic Train Operation (ATO).  Recently, a module that simulates ATO has been added to FRISO. At the moment this module calculates the required speed profile for a train so it will reach the planned goals on time. In the future, a real ATO component might be connected to FRISO in order to evaluate its effectiveness before being put into operation. Currently, FRISO supports external control of trains, but no binding to real ATO systems have been made yet

For a small-scale ERTMS pilot between Amsterdam and Utrecht, a FRISO simulation model was developed implementing ERTMS and Dual Signalling. The main goal of the pilot was to obtain and record critical knowledge and insights about the transition from existing safety systems to ERTMS in a responsible way.

The implementation of ERTMS in a dual signalling environment in FRISO has successfully been validated by independent experts. FRISO has shown to be a useful tool for ERTMS capacity studies and energy efficiency studies.

Serious Gaming: Simulation based training

For 8 years, FRISO has been deployed in the so-called TRINITY distributed simulation environment. Here, both operational and simulated railway applications communicate with FRISO as if they communicate with reality. Applications for train (re-)scheduling (ProRail), Crew planning and Rolling Stock planning (NS) can be used simultaneously during gaming sessions. This unique simulation environment allows large-scale gaming sessions with up to 40 participants with 4 different roles.

The TRINITY simulation environment has been successfully used to prepare train dispatchers for changes to the railway infrastructure at Utrecht Central Station, the main Dutch train station serving 285.000 passengers a day. Simulation has helped a smooth transition to the operation of an infrastructure with only one third of the original number of switches.

The Trinity simulation environment has also been used in a pilot for a new train schedule with 6 intercity trains per hour between Amsterdam and Eindhoven. During the gaming session, multiple scenarios have been evaluated, including scenarios with people walking on the tracks and defective trains.

Your challenges, our concern

INCONTROL’s simulation experts would be happy to use their expertise for your challenges. INCONTROL builds your customized multi-purpose railway simulator(s) that help you face the future. Simulation provides a nearly unlimited amount of opportunities for your company. Whether you want to improve your train schedules, innovate your systems, train your employees or create a digital twin of the rail, simulation can help!

Please feel free to contact INCONTROL to find out what the simulation experts can do for your railway company.