Continuous Improvement Track 3: Reliability of rail and (unexpected) obstructions on the track

The Challenge

Shippers and logistic service providers are getting more and more demanding concerning their requirement about transport services: not only the price is important, transport services should be flexible, reliable and sustainable as well. However, the performance of rail freight transport in terms of flexibility and as a consequence of that in terms of reliability as well is not that good. Rail freight transport is complex with many stakeholders involved who are dependent on each other for their processes.

In Smart-Rail – third Continuous Improvement Track (CIT) – the aim is to improve flexibility and reliability of rail freight transport at competitive prices in line with the needs of the clients (shippers, logistic service providers) also in case of (un)expected disruptions on the rail network on the Rhine-Alpine corridor. The challenge is how to improve the flexibility and reliability of rail freight services leading to an improved competitive position of rail freight transport.

CIT 3_1
Figure: Schematic overview of Continuous Improvement Track 3 between Rotterdam and Duisburg with involved stakeholders


The objective of this CIT is to collect data, to analyse the data and to develop and implement applications based on shared data between stakeholders that lead to improved flexibility and reliability of rail freight transport. The first step in this track was a wide market consultation with shippers, logistic service providers, operators, railway undertakings, terminals, infrastructure managers and governments. The question has been raised what would help most to improve rail freight performance concerning flexibility and reliability.

The following three topics have been mentioned most: Data exchange, data analytics and data use for smart applications; More flexible and efficient planning of international train paths; Develop, prepare and use pre-defined alternatives in case of disruptions. Especially the first topic – data exchange, data analytics and data use for smart applications – has been mentioned by almost everyone and thus comes forward as the most important topic.


For a service between Rotterdam and Duisburg on part of the Rhine – Alpine corridor data is collected for all relevant steps along the route from several stakeholders (amongst others railway undertakings, infra managers, terminals, operators and RNE). With this data indicators will be calculated about flexibility, reliability, efficiency and turnaround time. These indicators will be produced for the most recent year (historical data) and will be monitored for the current situation. The results of these indicators will be used to analyse performance, to analyse specific situations (with large distortions), to identify problems and to develop solutions. Once these solutions have been implemented the monitoring of indicators will be used to analyse the effectiveness of the measures.

Finally, the purpose of this CIT is to show benefits of collecting, sharing and using more data between stakeholders on this specific corridor in order to improve the performance of rail freight transport. A final step will be to extrapolate the benefits of collecting and sharing data between stakeholders to rail corridors in general.