On-demand rail-bound system

On-demand public transport is expected to become an increasingly important component of public transport systems, facilitated by vehicle automation. The potential of rail-bound on-demand services has been largely overlooked. Together with Jesper Haverkmap, who did his master thesis in the Dutch Railways, we determine the capacity requirements of an envisaged automated on-demand rail-bound transit system which offers a direct non-stop service.

The full paper published on Transportation Research Part B: Methodological is available here.

How many vehicles would such a system require? What are the costs associated with such a system? What are the track and station capacity required? What level of service will it deliver? What are the network saturation patterns given that vehicles can now perform route choice and choose the shortest path to passengers’ destination? What are the consequences for equity in service provision?

An optimization model is formulated for determining the optimal track and station platform capacities for an on-demand rail transit system so that passenger, infrastructure and operational costs are minimized. The macroscopic model allows for studying the underlying relations between technological, operational and demand parameters, optimal capacity settings and the obtained cost components.A series of sensitivity analyses are performed to test the consequences of a range of network structures, technological capabilities, operational settings, cost functions and demand scenarios for future automated on-demand rail-bound systems.

The model is applied to a series of numerical experiments followed by its application to part of the Dutch railway network. The performance is benchmarked against the existing service, suggesting that in-vehicle times can be reduced by 10% in the case study network while the optimal link and station capacity allocation is comparable to those currently available in the case study network. While network geometry and demand distribution are always the underlying determinants of both service frequencies and in-vehicle times, line configuration is only a determinant in the conventional system, whereas the automated on-demand rail service better caters for the prevailing demand relations, resulting in greater variations in service provision.

Here is a clip made by the Dutch Railways (NS) on the concept of on-demand services, denominated as Swarming transport. 



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