Optimising UK rail through analytics
Cloud-based data analytics enables Network Rail to improve the performance of its network through more accurate and efficient timetabling
As well as owning and managing the rail infrastructure on which train operators run their services, Network Rail is responsible for the production of the UK train timetable, which schedules the movements of over 22,000 trains every weekday across approximately 19,000 miles of track, carrying over 4 million passengers per day.
With demand increasing and problems of overcrowding on the busiest lines intensifying, Network Rail needed to consider making use of any spare capacity in the system and adding services to the timetable. To achieve this, it needed to improve both the accuracy of the existing timetable and the performance of services against it.
However, the multiplicity of sources of data and the complexity of the planning rules governing train movements has led to a volume of data that is simply too vast and unwieldy for Network Rail to validate with sufficient accuracy to form the basis for performance improvement.
Deloitte has worked with Network Rail’s timetable planners to develop a cloud-based data analytics system that utilises the billions of rows of data generated by the railway signalling system about the movement of trains across the network and validates the timetable planning rules. The firm’s analysis allows the data to be slimmed down to produce a more accurate timetable, which in turn will support not only improved performance but also the ability to maximise rail capacity.
Network Rail anticipates £7m of direct benefits from this project. In addition, combined operational savings for Network Rail and the rail operators are expected to be in tens of millions, while the indirect benefits of improving performance and capacity of the railway are estimated in hundreds of millions of pounds, with UK rail travellers benefitting from improve punctuality.
“Working with Deloitte Analytics, Network Rail’s Delivering a Better Timetable programme has identified that existing operational data could be utilised to improve the rules used to create future timetables. Deloitte has taken these disparate data sources, aligned the information contained, and developed a powerful analytics system that uses observed data that introduces new capability in analysing timetable rules.
Previously validation of the rules was a laborious process that could only be undertaken on targeted areas. This new system automates this process, allowing nationwide validation to be undertaken systematically for the first time. Once fully implemented, this system will lead to changes to timetables that will improve punctuality of 1.6m passenger journeys per year and provide a significant return on investment through reduced delay payments.”
Mark Foster, Senior Analyst, Network Rail’s Delivering a Better Timetable Programme