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Advanced analytical methods to support improved decision-making in railway systems

   Faculty of Environment

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  Dr Manuel Ojeda Cabral, Dr R Batley, Mr D Johnson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Railways are complex systems, and they are the backbones of broader and even more complex transport systems. Decision-making in railways and complex transport networks, in relation to investments and operations, requires the use of advanced analytical methods. For instance, a suite of passenger demand forecasting models and appraisal methods are typically used to inform decision-making in the rail industry. In the context of the climate emergency and the path to net zero, the railways play a fundamental role and it is essential that decision-making processes can be as robust and smooth as possible.

Unfortunately, existing forecasting and appraisal methods have been shown to have severe limitations especially for certain applications, such as the construction of new railway lines and stations, the selection and introduction of alternative light rail systems or operational choices regarding under-utilised lines. The limitations include, among others, large inaccuracies in demand forecasting, failure to capture the differential value of railways relative to other forms of transport and an incomplete account of wider social and economic impact. In all of the applications mentioned, changes in the railways are subject to strong interrelationships with the rest of the transport system and more advanced methods are required to capture the complexities of the railway and broader transport networks.

This project will develop advanced analytical methods in the area of transport appraisal and demand forecasting. The new suite of methods will be fundamental to support enhanced decision-making in railways, new rail technologies and the transport sector as a whole. The objective of the project is, therefore, to develop the state-of-the-art toolkit of appraisal methods in order to support improved decision-making. These will support more robust and smooth decision-making, critical for the role of railways in the transition to net zero.

There are multiple and varied opportunities for major contributions within this research project, which can cover fundamental research questions and topics such as, for example: how can we adequately compare the generalised journey costs of different transport modes for use in appraisal methods? Can the conventional rule-of-a-half be extended in practice for use in a multi-modal setting? What are the most accurate demand forecasting methods that could be deployed?

The project will build upon recent research conducted at the University of Leeds (Ojeda-Cabral, Batley and Johnson, 2021) funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) in cooperation with the Department for Transport and Network Rail. At the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at the University of Leeds, we have strong links with industry in the UK (RSSB, ORR, DfT, Network Rail) and overseas (e.g. SNCF), which will help us align the work with the practical needs of the sector and help us access data and other research resources. Furthermore, within the University of Leeds, ITS also benefits from direct collaboration with the Institute for High Speed Rail & Systems Integration (IHSR&SI).

For more information about the project, please e-mail the lead supervisor, Dr Manuel Ojeda-Cabral at [Email Address Removed]

Advanced analytical methods to support improved decision-making in railway systems | Project Opportunities | PhD | University of Leeds


Ojeda-Cabral, Batley and Johnson, D. (2021). Rail Openings Appraisal. Review and development of appraisal practice for new railway lines, stations and services. Report for RSSB.

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