Railway Capacity Challenge: Measuring and Managing in Britain

Melody Khadem Sameni, John Preston, John Armstrong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


In the European Union, the total length of railway lines has decreased since 1970, mainly by abandoning very old routes such as those to coal alines. However, there has been huge growth in the transport of goods and passengers due to economic growth and globalization. Accommodating more passengers and goods on less infrastructure has resulted in the railway capacity challenge. The highest rate of growth in passenger kilometres in Europe belongs to Britain, where a rise of 42.2 percent has been achieved in the period 1995-2006 while the total length of railway lines has decreased from 19,330 route km in 1970 to 16,321 km in 2008. Railways originated from Great Britain therefore old tracks along with huge growth in railway transportation in recent years and inadequate infrastructure have resulted in a serious railway capacity challenge. This paper reviews different definitions of railway capacity, discusses issues for it (including having one degree of freedom for movement, constant need for maintenance due to wear caused by wheel-rail interaction and domino effect) and examines underlying infrastructure, traffic and operating parameters that affect capacity utilisation. Current methods for analyzing capacity utilisation are investigated: theoretical formulae, parametric and mathematical models and various simulation software. For tackling the capacity challenge, a hierarchy of soft and hard measures that can be deployed to increase capacity is proposed. Some of the latest initiatives in Britain to tackle railway capacity challenge and using the current infrastructure efficiently are analyzed including Network Modeling Framework (NMF), Delivering a Sustainable Railway, High Level Output Statement (HLOS) and Route Utilisation Strategies (RUSs). In the end, five policies that can contribute to better utilising capacity in Britain are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ASME Joint Rail Conference
Publication date2010
ISBN (Print)9780791849071
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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