New approaches to modelling rail capacity
The United Kingdom’s rail network is busier than ever. There are 40% more passenger journeys than there were 10 years ago, and 60% more freight. Over the next 30 years freight demand is expected to rise 140%, and passenger demand will more than double. While investment into Britain’s infrastructure will offset some of this, finding efficiencies in the existing network will help to make busy lines more pleasant for travellers.
In 2014 the University of Birmingham and Cogitare Ltd embarked upon an ambitious Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to develop innovative methods for measuring and modelling rail capacity. Cogitare, a young and dynamic niche consultancy operating out of South Bank Technopark in London, would work with the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) to develop software that could not only extract additional benefits from existing lines but also help rail operators to know where they should invest their money.
The KTP has helped to develop an innovative new approach to railway modelling, whereby customer experience becomes a key factor in deciding what services to run. For example, a fully-packed train may get the most passengers from a to b in a short space of time, but many commuters would be willing to trade a 5 minute delay if they could guarantee a seat. Or a network that would favour direct journeys over those with two or more stops.
For Cogitare, a company without the in-house capacity to develop this knowledge, KTP provided them with a proven framework for carrying out an R&D project. Funding provided by Innovate UK and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) went towards the salary of a recent graduate, Bibil Paramattathil, who dedicated 2 years to this project. Bibil was assisted by academic oversight from Dr Stuart Hillmansen and Professor Clive Roberts of the University of Birmingham.
Director, Cogitare Ltd.
“Business success is more and more about better knowledge and technology. Bringing together different minds and knowledge through the KTP and harnessing Birmingham’s intellectual force with our experience is allowing us to develop new, highly-innovative products which we would not have been able to do without the KTP, and is at the heart of our future business success.”