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Case Studies

HERMES and the ON-TIME Project

  • Date

    1 October 2014

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How Graffica and the HERMES rail simulator benefitted the ON-TIME Project

ON-TIME is a collaborative project under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). The collaborating companies comprised railway infrastructure managers, universities, industry, and a number of SME companies, including Graffica.

Graffica was responsible for providing HERMES (Holistic Environment for Railway Modelling Evaluation and Simulation), a real time simulation capability with functional flexibility and an interface that can be accessed by third-party software.

Project Mission

The overall aim of the project was to improve railway customer satisfaction through increased capacity and decreased delays for both passenger and freight services. The ON-TIME project developed new methods, processes and algorithms to enable railway undertakings to significantly increase the available capacity.

The ON-TIME project’s central objective was to develop a coherent and integrated set of algorithms and procedures with the goal of maximising the available capacity on the European railway network, given timetable and resource constraints. The measured objectives examined the overall network delays and assessed that the network could continue to provide robust, dependable and environmentally-friendly alternatives to other modes of transport. The project’s main focus was to apply new algorithms to alleviate network bottlenecks and to use simulation to validate the results using the Graffica HERMES simulator. The studies examined a blend of contrasting traffic scenarios, including mixed passenger and freight services along European corridors as well as long distance main-line networks and urban commuter railways, on top of extracting on-demand freight paths through existing public timetables.

Aims and Objectives

  • Capacity improvement as a result of integrated planning and operations.
  • Use improved timetabling and operational traffic management to improve the flow of traffic through bottlenecks and to minimise track occupancy times.
  • Apply improved planning to develop robust and resilient timetables that cope with minor operational perturbations.
  • Improve traffic management to enable rapid recovery from minor perturbations and major disturbances.
  • Attempt to standardise the information provided to drivers to allow improved real-time system interoperability and energy efficiency.
  • Provide real-time notification of changes to the timetable that permit the effective use of available capacity.
  • Ensure passenger and freight customers have up-to-date and reliable information that reflects the current state of traffic management.
  • Manage and optimise train path dependencies, including turn-around and connections, to optimise recovery allowances during timetable generation.
  • Improve overall performance and network flow by providing high quality real-time information to drivers and traffic controllers.

Scenarios Modelled

  • United Kingdom, East Coast Main Line between London Kings Cross and Sandy
  • Bologna railway station
  • Netherlands, passenger services between Utrecht, Eindhoven, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Arnhem and Nijmegen
  • Sweden, Iron Ore Line with heavy ore trains from the quarry at Kiruna to the sea port at Narvik

Why Hermes was used

The ON-TIME project required a means of integrating the algorithms and the planning processes with a source of real-time data and then to evaluate the resulting traffic flows against a set of standard objective measures. The initial task was to create the ON-TIME data scenarios to run in the HERMES simulator. This task was significant as it required the import of large volumes of data from a variety of different sources, including Rail ML versions 1.0 and 2.1, Rail ML with interlocking (version 2.2), Open Track, RailSys and Train Plan. Once the data had been imported it was validated to ensure that the infrastructure, train performance and timetable information was consistent and true to the real world.

The HERMES simulator provides an Application Programming Interface (API) for developers to access information from the running simulator and to pass requests into the simulator to change its behaviour. At the same time, Graffica extended the HERMES API to export the HERMES data model to third party algorithms as Rail ML. This allowed those algorithms to make real-time requests into the simulator to route trains according to a dynamically determined plan and to respond to disruptions detected in the simulation by modifying services and timetables to avoid the disrupted area.

One of the scenarios demonstrated was to create a blockage on the south-bound fast line just south of Stevenage station. The London-bound express train approaching the blockage was then routed via the Hertford loop, resulting in the train getting an automatically generated path into London, being routed automatically and arriving at the due platform at Kings Cross about 10 minutes later than scheduled, but significantly earlier than had it not been re-routed.

OnTime Partners:

Graffica was a member of the ON-TIME Consortium made up of 19 partners:

Network Rail (NR)Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI)
Deutsche Bahn AG (DB)Societe Nationale Des Chemins De Fer Francais (SNCF)
Ansaldo STSNTT Data Italia S.P.A.
University Of Birmingham (UoB)Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne
Erasmus Universiteit RotterdamInstitut Francais Des Sciences Et Technologies Des Transports, De L’amenagement Et Des Reseaux (IFSTTAR)
University Of NottinghamTechnische Universitaet Dresden
Technische Universiteit DelftUniversita Di Bologna
Uppsala UniversitetTransrail Sweden Aktiebolag

Additional Information

For additional information please see the OnTime project public website

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