Digital twin technology to improve punctuality of Greater Anglia trains

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Digital twin, Greater Anglia,
© Giovanni Gagliardi

Digital twin technology used to make trains run on time in Japan is being introduced in the UK for the first time to improve punctuality on the Greater Anglia network

Toshiba Digital and Consulting Corporation (TDX) and Mitsui are providing a digital twin software package to help Greater Anglia plan the region’s rail timetable more efficiently.

A digital twin flags up any timing or platform conflicts, enabling Greater Anglia to tweak the timetable to try to reduce any delay.

The twin has been trialled on Greater Anglia’s West Anglia route, from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street and is now being rolled out across the network, to build on the punctuality improvements Greater Anglia and Network Rail have made in the last six months.

TDX data engineers flew in from Tokyo and spent five months collecting data for the trial, including the existing timetable, train acceleration and braking performance and information about the position of signals, curves and the gradient of the line.

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They verified the data by going out on trains along the route and interviewed station and train staff so that they were aware of any human factors not present in the data.

Once they had gathered all relevant information, they built a simulator model which they used to adjust calling patterns, train timings and platform allocations in order to make the timetable more efficient and robust, improving punctuality.

These adjustments were checked to make sure they were feasible and, if accepted, inputted into the real-world timetable.

Using the digital twin model, Greater Anglia’s train planners, who write the company’s timetables, can see at a glance where conflicts are, thanks to an easy-to-use viewing system.

The combined efforts of TDX, Mitsui and Greater Anglia teams mean that adjustments for the coming timetable change in May 2020 have already been suggested for the West Anglia route.

Keith Palmer, Greater Anglia head of performance and planning, said: “We are very pleased to be working with TDX and Mitsui to bring Japanese know-how to improve journeys for Greater Anglia passengers.

“Timetable planning is an incredibly complex job and we welcome this new system as it will help us to refine what we are already doing.”

Noriyasu Okitani, president of TDX, said: “We are really pleased to start this innovative project with Greater Anglia and Mitsui, we will utilize the digital technologies of the Toshiba Group and would like to contribute to further improvements in customer convenience and customer satisfaction.”

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