Researchers at University of Portsmouth develop first algorithm to reduce train delays

In the latest Business Talk column from the University of Portsmouth, we look at how the first algorithm to automatically detect train delays has been developed in the city.

Promoted by University of Portsmouth
Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 10:28 am
Train delays could be reduced by a new algorithm
Train delays could be reduced by a new algorithm

The intelligent tool was developed by researchers at the university in conjunction with First MTR South Western Railway via a two-year knowledge transfer partnership (KTP), funded by Innovate UK.

Minimising disruption to rail travel is challenging, with more than 1,700 trains operating on South Western Railway’s rail network across Southern England daily.

It is difficult for controllers to detect delays promptly, which leads to further delays in selecting contingency plans.Despite large increases in passenger numbers, trains and crews, rail operators have been using the same systems and technology for decades.

Dr Edward Smart, KTP academic supervisor, said: ‘As a commuter myself, I’m delighted to be able to contribute to this project that will improve the customer experience. It highlights the impact that machine learning algorithms can have for real world applications.’

University researchers automatically analysed data to determine the point of delay, identify which trains would be affected and select the appropriate contingency plans to get the services back on track.

The intelligent tool is designed with machine learning techniques to reduce dramatically the time to analyse and process the data.

Professor Chris Simms, KTP academic lead, said: ‘Automatic detection of delays represents the future of the rail sector. This project has made an important first step in realising the potential represented by machine learning to mitigate railway delays.’

The tool is currently being used within the South Western Railway (SWR) Control Centre, which is responsible for controlling the movement of trains across the network.

Chris Prior, Head of Control Projects at SWR, said: ‘Working with the University of Portsmouth has been an excellent experience for SWR and has transferred understanding into the business on systems development and AI.

‘Together we have developed a system which improves the speed to respond to recover late running, learn from and continuously improve SWR customer’s experience.’

South Western Railway (SWR) is a joint venture between FirstGroup and MTR Europe, two of the world’s leading train companies.

With about 235 million passenger journeys a year, the South Western franchise is the largest and busiest in the UK railway network.

Academic awarded Freedom of City of London

Dr Sarah Turnbull has been given the Freedom of The City of London in a ceremony which dates back to Medieval England.

Dr Turnbull, a Reader in the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Portsmouth and a leading author of books on marketing communications, said: ‘When you look at the list of global leaders and prime ministers who have received the Freedom of The City of London, I feel very honoured.

‘I have strong links to the City of London where I studied marketing back in the 1980s and I am a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Marketors in the City, a City Livery Company.

‘I owe so much to the City of London for my early career success and being part of this unique history of the city makes me feel very proud.’

Graduate wins prize for impact of thesis

A PHD graduate from the University of Portsmouth has been awarded a prize for academic excellence for the impact her thesis has had in addressing issues of gender and inclusion in the marketing industry.

Her research captured the experiences of women to enable their voices to be heard. Dr Helen Thompson-Whiteside, who graduated in July, was given the award by The Worshipful Company of Marketors.