The ever-increasing need for railway capacity has led infrastructure managers to explore next generation signaling systems to drastically reduce train separation by overcoming traditional fixed-block railway operations. Technologies like ETCS Level 3 are under development to bring the railways to a configuration without track-side signaling where trains move at an absolute braking distance from each other. The railway industry is however looking into the alternative concept of Virtual Coupling which separates trains by a relative braking distance as for cars on the road. By means of a V2V communication architecture trains could move synchronously in platoons which could be treated as a single convoy at junctions, so to improve capacity. On the other hand, the concept might introduce additional safety risks, especially at diverging junctions where points need to be switched and locked in between trains of a platoon. There is the need to understand whether capacity benefits provided by Virtual Coupling are sufficient to motivate the railway industry to invest in it, despite the unclear safety implications. This paper addresses such a need by assessing impacts of Virtual Coupling on railway capacity and potential benefits with respect to ETCS Level 3. For the first time in literature, operational principles and capacity occupation models have been developed and simulated to describe train operations under Virtual Coupling. An application to a case study in the UK shows the advantages that such a concept provides in terms of capacity utilization, as well as space and time train headways.
|Title of host publication||Proceedings of the 98th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting|
|Subtitle of host publication||Washington DC, 13th-17th January 2019|
|Publisher||Transportation Research Board (TRB)|
|Publication status||Published - 2019|