English collection of articles from Innotéka magazine appearing monthly in Hungary.

English collection of articles from Innotéka magazine appearing monthly in Hungary.

September 10, 2012

Tibor Kardos

Rail Navigator Ltd. • railnavigator.hu

Railway Technology Software by Rail Navigator Ltd.

Rail Navigator Ltd.: the developer of passenger railway software in Hungary

Railway operation has long-standing traditions and well-established practices based on the solid background of transportation science. Passenger railway transportation, as an important part of it, demands highly specialized technological software, the development of which requires not only IT competence, but also a deep insight into the railway tech­nology. Moreover, especially in Europe, the characteristics of railways and their operation vary greatly from one country to the other, due to the difference of the topology of networks, the rolling stock, the transportation needs to be served, etc.

Rail Navigator Ltd. has been developing railway technology software since 1994. As a small company formed by engineers involved in railway operations, it has specialized in developing systems tailored for the needs of MÁV, the Hunga­rian railway operator company. The first achievements were the timetable based operative train management solution and the railway infrastructure register management system – both were developed and put into operation on the whole Hungarian railway network in the nineties. They have been in continuous operation ever since.

Rail Graphics infrastructure system, or Route Book

After this development Rail Navigator Ltd. obtained a twofold profile. On one hand, the company addressed the IT support of the Hungarian railway authorities, developing software covering the following functions: registering and licensing of railway infrastructure and vehicles (including an interface to the European Railway Agency), granting and monitoring of railway companies, crew related issues (EU-conformant licences, etc.). On the other hand, the company has developed the IT support of passenger transportation. This has been implemented by an integrated modular system using a joint central data­base and covering the complete business process of passenger railway transportation. The system makes all the cost elements of all train timetables accountable on a daily basis for the invoicing between the railway companies and the state. In what follows we describe a few pieces of software and modules in some detail.

Rail Graphics: railway infra­structure database management made easy

Rail Graphics is a site-plan based railway infrastructure database management and visualization system with a compelling GUI, operating since 1994. It displays the railway network as is customary at the traffic-control centres, while each object has its own parameters, stored in a central database. Identification of railway infrastructure objects is based upon the railway route section ID-s. Storing geographic coordinates is also available. One can switch from map view to site-plan view to object database view in no more than an instant.
The system serves as a proper framework for the management of the network, including bridges, signals, traffic control, safety installation, and electrifications. In this system, generating the route books of the lines of the Hungarian network – introduced by an EU regulation for engine drivers –, is almost a trivial job, performed automatically.

Railway timetable planning and management of train paths

The start of development of the time­tabling system of Rail Navigator dates back as early as 1994. The GUI-based software provides an easy-to-use tool for the timetable planners, making all the cost drivers of the timetable readily available in order to facilitate financially optimal planning. Almost 10 years’ worth of timetable data is available in the system, three of which are active at a time (past year, present year and next year) in order to ensure the accounting of the past year, the change tracking for the present year and to aid the timetable planning for the next year. Thus a fluid timetable planning method is implemented. The system is prepared for the introduction of algorithmic timetabling. In order to be able to handle the requests of train paths, this solution interfaces with the Hunga­rian Rail Capacity Allocation Office.

Timetable planning and management of train paths

Rolling stock registry, vehicle maintenance and cleaning management

The module, operating since 2004, processes the parameters of almost 3,000 vehicles and determines their maintenance and cleaning cycles according to the type of the vehicle. Usually the cycle makes predictable the vehicles’ putting out of service and putting into service dates, as well as their maintenance period, thus ensuring the availability of the rolling stock fleet and the continuous operation of railway workshops at all times. Due to this module, the different length, cost and standards of the maintenance cycles for different types of vehicles can be planned.

Planning of the set allocation list and composition of passenger trains

The technological process covered by this module must be started side by side with the planning of next year’s timetable because it requires knowledge of the trains’ mass, length and the type of the tractive stock. As a specialty of the Hungarian railways, a large variety of vehicles, including modern and older EMUs/DMUs are also present along with traditional locomotive-based shuttle trains, which makes the above described task rather difficult. These features greatly complicate the set allocation and composition planning of the 3,500 trains per day that need to be issued from a 2,500 unit vehicle pool.

The module supports this process with user-friendly graphical planning interface based on the timetable and vehicle database. The outputs of the planning process are graphical and numerical plans. The possibility of comparison of the factual and planned rolling stock circulation and the introduction of algorithmic methods of operations research are the subjects of ongoing development.

Railm@n – the crew management system

Module for the operation control management of passenger transport

Due to this module, the factual data of the train runs are available in the central database side by side with the plans. There are six operation control centres equipped with this software, keeping under control the processes generated by the 3,500 trains daily. The supported tasks include continuous monitoring of operations according to the timetable, registering of events that deviate from it, managing conflicts, modifying or cancelling existing train traffic/paths, managing the shift to bus, dealing with unforeseen weather conditions, accidents, strike situations, and other potential operative tasks.

Crew rostering and scheduling

The system covers the whole staff arranged in shifts including the train crew (conductors, travelling ticket inspectors, supervisor control officers) and station crew (ticket clerks, examiners, cleaning dispatchers, crew rosterers, operation controllers), presently about 7,000 employees. The process supported by the software includes longer-term (timetable-dependent) planning and operative tasks. As for the travelling crew, rosters can be designed either manually – using a sophisticated user interface, aware of the timetable, technological times of processes, legal regulations, etc. – or automatically, as an algorithmic duty and roster planner, as well as an optimizer are also available in this solution. As for the station staff, the crew requirements and work schedules are to be managed. The monthly planning and operational crew management are performed through an innovative user interface, which is unique for this system. It has proven to be easy-to-use and very effective since it minimizes the occurrence of potential faults, such as uncovered duties, conflicts with the legal regulations, etc. The software provides payroll data towards the SAP system via an interface, and generates statistics and reports for monitoring purposes too.

IT technology

Rail Navigator uses cutting-edge software development technologies. The agile development methodology makes possible to meet the needs of railway experts to the highest extent. The company develops software for any platform (server, desktop, or mobile), tailored to the very needs of the customer.•