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City’s Data Visualisation academics awarded research contract by Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB)

The giCentre’s Dr Aidan Slingsby and Dr Cagatay Turkay are collaborating with Risk Solutions on a year-long contract to explore knock-on train delays with Great Western Railway (GWR).
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

Dr Aidan Slingsby and Dr Cagatay Turkay, Data Visualisation academics from City’s Information Visualisation Centre (giCentre), have been awarded a 12-month contract by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), to look closely at knock-on train delays with Great Western Railway.

Drs Slingsby and Turkay will be collaborating with Risk Solutions.

The project undertaken by the academics based within the Department of Computer Science, is aimed at understanding the causes and consequences of knock-on delays, and explores ways to tackle them to improve rail services for passengers.

Reactionary delay

The railway industry collects information about the initial incidents that cause delay (primary delay) to help improve the performance of rail services and keep passengers informed.

Though the number of primary delays has remained stable over recent years (300-350k minutes per year), the delay caused by an initial incident often cascades through the rail network, causing reactionary delay; this has steadily grown over recent years (from 600k to 800k mins).

This is proving difficult to understand and control.

The project demonstrates the value of using an agent-based model, combined with powerful interactive visualisation techniques, to reveal insights about the common factors that cause and contribute to reactionary delay. The objective is to develop and test a tool that can be used to find the most effective interventions and contingency plans to control and recover from delay, and improve network performance.

It is hoped that through this project GWR will gain a greater understanding of how random and multiple everyday incidents on the railways affect delays. The knowledge gained will assist in determining the most effective interventions - or contingency plans - to reduce delays, reduce the number of cancelled services, and to improve the service for rail customers.

Dr Slingsby, a Lecturer in Visual and Analytic Computing, said:

"Our models will simulate the knock-on effects of a whole range of train delays. Many of these have little overall effect on the train service but some may cause large knock-on effects that impact other train services. City's team will be designing interactive visualisation methods that will help our train operating company partner (GWR) understand the whole range of impacts of delays that happen at different times and in different places. They will then be able to put measures in place in order to reduce the likelihood of delays associated with the most serious knock-on effects".

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