Technology used to make trains run on time in Japan is being introduced for the first time in the UK to improve punctuality on the Greater Anglia network.
Toshiba Digital and Consulting Corporation (TDX), which has been involved in Japanese railway industries for 100 years, and Mitsui, which part owns Greater Anglia, are providing a digital twin software package to help Greater Anglia plan the region’s rail timetable more efficiently.
A digital twin – currently used by railway operators in Japan, known across the world for their punctuality – flags up any timing or platform conflicts, enabling Greater Anglia to tweak the timetable to try to reduce any delay.
It has been trialled on Greater Anglia’s West Anglia route, from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street and is now being rolled out across the network, to build on the punctuality improvements Greater Anglia and Network Rail have made in the last six months and keep those positive trends going.
TDX data engineers flew in from Tokyo and spent five months collecting data for the trial, including the existing timetable, train acceleration and braking performance and information about the position of signals, curves and the gradient of the line.
They verified the data by going out on trains along the route and interview station and train staff so that they were aware of any human factors not present in the data.
Once they had gathered all relevant information, they built a simulator model – the digital twin – which they used to adjust calling patterns, train timings and platform allocations in order to make the timetable more efficient and robust, improving punctuality.
These adjustments were checked to make sure they were feasible and, if accepted, inputted into the real-world timetable.
Using the digital twin model, Greater Anglia’s train planners, who write the company’s timetables, can see at a glance where conflicts are, thanks to an easy-to-use viewing system, and how a tweak here or a 30-second change of timing there may make customers’ journeys run better.
The combined efforts of TDX, Mitsui and Greater Anglia teams mean that adjustments for the coming timetable change in May 2020 have already been suggested for the West Anglia route.
This has included alterations to the platforms that are used at Liverpool Street for some key trains to improve right time departures
Data engineers are now focusing on getting information on the lines between London and Norwich, to see how improvements could be made on this route too and in future timetables.
Keith Palmer, Greater Anglia head of performance and planning, said: “We are very pleased to be working with TDX and Mitsui to bring Japanese know-how to improve journeys for Greater Anglia passengers.
“Timetable planning is an incredibly complex job and we welcome this new system as it will help us to refine what we are already doing.”
Noriyasu Okitani, President of TDX, said: “We are really pleased to start this innovative project with Greater Anglia and Mitsui, we will utilize the digital technologies of the Toshiba Group and would like to contribute to further improvements in customer convenience and customer satisfaction .
Yasushi Shimizu, general manager of Transportation Project Div. Mobility Business Unit I Mitsui & Co., Ltd said: “Mitsui intends to contribute to the development of UK rail market by bringing capable partners through our global network to deliver innovative solutions. We are excited with this opportunity to support Greater Anglia’s train operation service that would lead to enhancing the value of the project by introducing Toshiba’s Digital Twin and Artificial Intelligence based train planning solution and consulting service, together with Toshiba Corporation.”