App keeps trains running on time to save energy and resources

By / 16th of September, 2014

GETTING trains to run efficiently and on time seems the stuff of dreams, but the answer is now as close as a smartphone or tablet.

Software developed in South Australia to guide train drivers through any journey can now be used without having to install special computer systems.

Developed by mathematicians at the University of South Australia (UniSA), the Energymiser® system was the first of its kind in the world.

It is now installed in more than 1000 passenger and freight trains in Australia and the United Kingdom and is being trialled by train operators in five other countries, including with high-speed services.

Discussions also are under way with UK authorities on the potential to integrate the system with central office systems, allowing timetables to be constantly updated.

“The original aim was to save fuel and money by making trains run efficiently, but there are equally important benefits in keeping trains running on time,” said Dr Peter Pudney, Deputy Director of UniSA’s Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

“If all trains are always on time, you can be much more precise with your scheduling and your use of resources.”

The system works by calculating how fast a train should travel at any particular time given what has happened on the journey to date, what lies ahead, and what time it is scheduled to arrive. It factors in everything from gradients and curves to natural or manmade hazards.

The fuel or energy savings to date are significant, ranging from 10 to 20% on trains including iron ore trains in Africa (which can be up to 2.5km long), freight trains in Australia, the UK and India, coal trains in Australia and China, and high speed passenger trains in the UK.

Energymiser® is commercially available through TTG Transportation Technology, but its inventors at UniSA have a continuing involvement, analysing data from ongoing trials and customising systems to meet the needs of specific clients. 

Key contacts

Dr Peter Pudney School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences University of South Australia
61 8 8302 3457