More delays as unavoidable effect of competition in railways?

I have been busy trying to reduce delays and delay propagation in railways for a long time now, so it looks quite surprising that somebody might want to increase delays instead. Well, that might be a result of a naive application of the guidelines on competition on the railway market.


The competition on the railway market has started in the last years, and despite the wishes of the EU, only limited steps forward have been made. What happens is that multiple players have to be handled, and if some delays occurs, the infrastructure has to be managed in a non-discriminatory way. It looks easy said like that, but among the consequences, one might find a freight train might take priority over a passenger trains, competing high speed services which are purposefully hindering each other to steal market share.. Reality shows that in the countries where competition has grown, the role of the main railway company has sometimes been openly against the newcomers; and the strong ties with the infrastructure managers (they were the same company until some years ago) might disrupt a fragile “non-discriminatory” situation.

The master student Xiaojie Luan (from Beijing Jiaotong University) worked on this topic for her thesis, partially done at Delft University of Technology, under my supervision. She has been developing control approaches that can inherently include fairness between competitors while decreasing delays at system level. Out of this work she (and myself as a coauthor) made a paper “The Balanced Train Dispatching Models toward Reducing Delays and Inequity of Competitors” by Luan, Corman, Meng, which got the second place at the Student Paper Award, managed by Informs-RAS, the railway section of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science. That’s not a bad achievement, for a master student!
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One Response to More delays as unavoidable effect of competition in railways?

  1. Lingyun Meng says:

    Congratulations. It’s really an achievement for a master student to get a prize in INFORMS RAS student paper contest.

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