Multiple-phase train trajectory optimization with signalling and operational constraints

Pengling Wang, Rob M P Goverde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


The train trajectory optimization problem aims at finding the optimal speed profiles and control regimes for a safe, punctual, comfortable, and energy-efficient train operation. This paper studies the train trajectory optimization problem with consideration of general operational constraints as well as signalling constraints. Operational constraints refer to time and speed restrictions from the actual timetable, while signalling constraints refer to the influences of signal aspects and automatic train protection on train operation. A railway timetable provides each train with a train path envelope, which consists of a set of positions on the route with a specified target time and speed point or window. The train trajectory optimization problem is formulated as a multiple-phase optimal control model and solved by a pseudospectral method. This model is able to capture varying gradients and speed limits, as well as time and speed constraints from the train path envelope. Train trajectory calculation methods under delay and no-delay situations are discussed. When the train follows the planned timetable, the train trajectory calculation aims at minimizing energy consumption, whereas in the case of delays the train trajectory is re-calculated to track the possibly adjusted timetable with the aim of minimizing delays as well as energy consumption. Moreover, the train operation could be affected by yellow or red signals, which is taken into account in the train speed regulation. For this purpose, two optimization policies are developed with either limited or full information of the train ahead. A local signal response policy ensures that the train makes correct and quick responses to different signalling aspects, while a global green wave policy aims at avoiding yellow signals and thus proceed with all green signals. The method is applied in a case study of two successive trains running on a corridor with various delays showing the benefit of accurate predictive information of the leading train on energy consumption and train delay of the following train.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-275
Number of pages21
JournalTransportation Research. Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Optimal control
  • Pseudospectral method
  • Railway signalling
  • Train trajectory optimization

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