Estimated software cost for timetabling

Discussion in 'Allocations, Diagrams & Timetables' started by Emil Valiyev, 6 Dec 2018.

  1. Emil Valiyev

    Emil Valiyev New Member

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    Hi,

    Im wondering what software tools are available in the market for train timetabling and what would be their estimated cost of purchase.

    Thanks a lot.

    Emil
     
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  3. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    There are a few systems which can be used for planning trains, all do slightly different things and do it in different ways. You have TPS which Network Rail use, TrainPlan which Network Rail used to use, Attune, Railsys, VoyagerPlan. You would have to buy a licence for them and then populate them with the correct geography. None of them will be cheap, probably well into 5 figures.
     
  4. Wilts Wanderer

    Wilts Wanderer Member

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    It depends how you wish to carry out your timetabling as well. TPS is very much about graphing, but inappropriate if you want to undertake rolling stock / traincrew diagramming activities. Voyagerplan has graphing functions but it really works in tandem with tabular editing of paths, and displaying junction lineups, platforming charts and the full suite of diagramming functions.

    There is also TRACSIS which is growing in popularity and usefulness, although it is mainly an automated iterative diagramming program. As far as I know there isn’t a timetabling function, yet.

    With all the different programs though, the real tool is the timetable planner’s Mk 1 human brain. The software is simply the tool for creating the plan. There isn’t any such thing as an automated timetable planning program.
     
  5. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    A good brain and an Excel spreadsheet can suffice :)
     
  6. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Are you interested in bidding for a forthcoming franchise?
     
  7. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That's one of the biggest challenges with using such software AIUI. Hard-coding the knowledge of an experienced planner is no mean feat and surprisingly difficult to do.
     
  8. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    No software (currently) can make you a good planner.

    What is available are basically (admittedly very good - no disrespect intended to the developers!) databases-cum-calculators with some clever graphical interfaces that 'synchronise' with the planner's brain.
     
  9. Wilts Wanderer

    Wilts Wanderer Member

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    So what it really boils down to is experience. If you can’t do the job well on paper then all the software available won’t make a good timetable.
     
  10. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    The right mindset, plus a bit of experience.
     
  11. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    RailSys is definitely into the tens of thousands of euros per copy. As mentioned it won't write the timetable for you, though it may help, and if you get the timetable fully correct it will run a simulation.

    As mentioned, it's possible to do simple timetabling using Excel graphs, though it requires persuading Excel to do various things Microsoft never intended.
     
  12. 306024

    306024 Established Member

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    Use a pencil and paper (and an eraser), it’s cheaper - considerably.

    Having done timetabling before computers were used, the easiest mistake to make was to add up one of the sectional running times incorrectly, thus throwing your whole schedule out. Over the years computers helped considerably in making it easy to time / retime a train without having to recalculate everything, but they were really glorified adding machines.

    Today software has been developed to identify schedule conflicts and all sorts of other clever things, but fortunately it still needs more than an ounce of intelligence to understand everything. Software for diagramming is a whole different ball game which needs great skill to write the rules to prevent the computer coming up with ‘interesting’ results.
     
  13. Stow

    Stow Member

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    I suspect that NR will now be looking towards a ITPS replacement following the ORR report. Also interesting that Siemens are now the owners of ITPS.

    Some of the problems I have seen with planning is not the software or the planners but the inadequacy of the rules on which it is all based. It seems you can have a great timetable that does not comply with the rules and a poor one which does, which seems to highlight that the rules are ‘wrong’
     
  14. Wilts Wanderer

    Wilts Wanderer Member

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    The national planning rules are incomplete, they were never designed to be comprehensive. The current problem is that the climate today is one of ‘compliance’ at the expense of all else. So suddenly the existing rules are treated as the be-all-and-end-all whereas they were never intended to be used in this manner. At the same time, those still with knowledge and understanding of operational ‘context’ are not those doing the ultimate decision making; loss of experience leads to loss of confidence in what others are telling you - so you look it up in the rules and it probably isn’t there. Do you a) take it on trust, or b) revert to default planning values, or inappropriate rules?

    There is a view that the railway has a problem with loss of experience. This is true, but not to the extent it is thought to be. The problem is simply that communicating the experience and knowledge between the fragmented organisational structure is increasingly difficult in the modern climate of contracts and liability.
     
  15. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    Why would we replace it? The amount of time it took to develop and then train people to use was substantial, let alone the cost. Half the problem was introducing it when the move to MK happened. As Wilts Wanderer has said, the rules will never be complete and are a comprimise as every value is pretty much an average or inflated to have an element of robustness.
     
  16. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Yes, but not everyone has a brain as good as yours!
     
  17. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Few can match yours for cunning plans, though.
     
  18. TBSchenker

    TBSchenker Member

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    I began in the industry 15 years ago timetabling. We used ProTim which was a legacy system Railtrack used. The TOCs were all using Voyagerplan. All the schedules had to be manually entered and validated. Later systems incorporated an import function where the TOCs schedules were imported which saved on inputting them, but still needed validating.

    As mentioned, a good planner could validate a path using a variety of tools. My favourite was junction reports for just a few trains. Knowledge was key, you needed to know your area. Where had loops, 4 tracks, platforms to thread these trains through. For larger schedule changes graphs were used with a pencil and rubber.

    Planning rules had to be obeyed, signalling headway’s, junction allowances, engineering tolerances, platform dwells etc. Sometimes refining one train meant changes to several more just to accommodate it!
     
  19. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Yes but they are mostly rubbish!

    Whereas @Ianno87 has been wrong on a railway matter perhaps twice. Ever.
     
  20. rf_ioliver

    rf_ioliver Member

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    Depends on what you want to do. If you want to use the tool that the rail companies use then you're talking a huge amount of money, training, maintenance and hardware costs; plus all of the experience needed to get the best out of those tools.

    If you're thinking of something simple, eg: time table for Train Simulator, then Excel (LibreOffice!) will suffice. I've attached a screenshot which'll give you an idea - all it takes is knowing the times from the start station and using a simple formula copied across the cells, plus work with the formatting afterwards to get something visually pleasing.

    Otherwise you could write your own - start brushing up on python, prolog, constraint logic programming etc

    Then again timetabling is a mathematically "hard" problem, so if you get the best solution you have either a trivial problem or been amazingly lucky. Basically everything in this domain comes down to being an optimisation problem: something humans are remarkably good at, hence the need for experienced timetablers.

    t.

    Ian

    exampleTT.jpg
     

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