Mathematical efficiency

There are a number of items floating around the web at the moment related to the European ARRIVAL project. The project’s aim is to create an algorithm that would help create more efficient timetables on public transport systems ultimately resulting in running more efficient and attractive public transportation systems to use.

The problem sounds simple: you need to optimise large and complex systems of public transportation infrastructure in order to optimise their efficiency, reduce waiting times and also manage the effects that delays will have on the timetables; by managing potential delays and improving the working of these systems they become more and more attractive for use by¬†travellers. Obviously in practise this isn’t simple, a minor delay on any part of the network can result in delays that create havoc all over the place.

The result of this project has already found success in cutting down waiting times on Berlin’s Metro system from four to two minutes, a new railway timetable has been created to manage The Netherlands’ rail system, and also on Swiss railways it has been used to optimise a schedule so that additional trains can run on high risk tracks (by this I am hoping they mean track at risk of delay as opposed to falling off mountains or something).

I can’t even begin to remember any of the control system mathematics I did at university and all those algorithms for whatever it was I was supposed to be understanding (although I am still traumatised by the memory of trying to get my head around equations that were not related to digital electronics), but this work does look interesting.