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OSRD is a railway toolbox designed for multiple use cases. These tools have in common a reliance on railway infrastructure simulation, and result analysis.

1 - Governance

Governance and organisation of OSRD

One of the ambitions of OSRD is to help with timetabling on a European scale.

To reach this goal, OSRD has to take local features into account by consulting and collaborating with railway companies and infrastructure managers.

And for their trouble contributing to OSRD, these companies:

  • profit from all the common development efforts
  • can freely build on the common effort to achieve their own goals1
  • participate in the roadmap and technical direction of the project to the extent of their contribution

The Open Rail Foundation

The Open Rail Foundation is a non-profit commited to organizing cooperative work around railway software tools.

OpenRail Foundation

  1. As long as they don’t modify the common tools without sharing their improvements. See the details of the LGPLv3 license. ↩︎

2 - Use cases

Use cases and strategic axes

The process of planning the circulation of a train requires 10 years of anticipation and involves the collaboration of different services and actors to transform the mobility needs of customers: The process of planning a train requires 10 years of anticipation and involves the collaboration of different departments and actors to transform the mobility needs of customers: organizing authorities (OA) and railway companies (RC) into annual service (AS).

The OSRD project aims to meet the needs of simulations that cover the entire process, from the design of the transportation plan to its operation.

OSRD presentation

Our mission is to provide a simulation tool that can be used in all stages of the design phase (timetable planning and operational studies), on a national geographic scale (including the whole French network) and with a variable detail size. Moreover, in the operational phase, the OSRD project proposes a service to draw last minute paths (time-slot during which the infrastructure is allocated to the circulation of a specific train) in the theoretical or real residual capacity of the railway network, once the other circulations have already been planned.

OSRD project

Different OSRD products

OSRD projet

Our ambitions for 2022

OSRD ambitions

2.1 - Strategic timetable


A first phase of the transportation plan design process starts very early: Y-10 of the day the train is to run and aims to propose several traffic scenarios on existing or prospective rail infrastructure. In this phase, SNCF Réseau, the French railway infrastructure manager and responsible for the allocation and sale of train paths, collects requests from OA (Organizing Authorities) and RC (Railway Companies) in terms of mobility. The requests will be transmitted in the form of service plans. A service plan is a way of representing the requested trains, their route and the stops to be served.

The OSRD Strategic Schedules product has been designed to build an operating plan from the service diagrams, based on rail infrastructure modeling, running calculation and simulation. Building an operating plan means scheduling the trains presented on the service diagrams in a way that best meets the mobility needs. The OSRD tool provides a database with a micro-model of the French railway infrastructure as well as the rolling stock already in use in France. Moreover, an interface to modify the existing infrastructure or to design a new part of the infrastructure is proposed. The output products of the “OSRD Strategic Schedules” process are timetables where the train schedules are displayed. A graphical representation of the timetables is thus proposed.

A comprehensive and strategic view of the timetable planning is crucial to improve rail performance. The ultimate goal is to meet mobility needs by optimizing line capacity utilization, station track occupancy and material turnover. To meet this optimization requirement, we are working to implement mathematical modeling and resolution modules coupled with the simulator.

2.2 - Exploitation studies


Millions of Euros are invested each year in rail projects on the basis of operational studies. The objectives of these studies are to match transport needs with the rail infrastructure and to assess the capacity of the network to meet these needs. Operational studies, which are strategic and crucial for informing public investment decisions concerning the future of the rail network and for the performance of the rail system, require rare and exclusive skills and currently produce scattered and poorly capitalized data. For this reason, SNCF Réseau has chosen in 2019 to equip itself with an in-house tool to carry out these studies.

The “OSRD Operational Studies” project was born in response to the shortcomings of the market: numerous and expensive tools, closed and with non-comparable results. On the contrary, we propose a reference tool accessible to all, whose results are transparent, explicit and universal. The OSRD tool provides a database with a microscopic modeling of the French railway infrastructure (gradients, radii of curvature, limiting speeds). An interface to modify the existing infrastructure or to design a new part of the infrastructure is proposed. Thanks to this modeling and to its running calculation engine, OSRD can calculate routes, draw paths, simulate trains and their interaction with the signaling system. OSRD meets the stakes of sustainable mobility by optimizing energy consumption. The expected regularity margin on the running of a train is distributed according to an algorithm that minimizes the energy consumed by the train during the journey.

An interesting element of verification of an exploitation scenario is the evaluation of the robustness of what is projected. For this function, a stochastic simulation module is proposed. Hazards can be modeled and injected into the simulator to evaluate the consequences and the ability of the system to return to balance.

2.3 - Infrastructure management


Several applications used within the SNCF group and outside need a mapping representation of the railway network. The OSRD base map uses geographic data from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a “Wikipedia of maps” that allows collaborative consultation and editing of geographic data. This base map is regularly updated to reflect the evolution of non-rail infrastructure.

OSRD management

“OSRD Infrastructure Management**” proposes a mapping service accessible to all and shared, based on the same model: everyone will be able to contribute and put in quality the railway data. We provide on the one hand a complete editor of the rail network infrastructure and the objects that compose it, and on the other hand, the provision of data layers for their exploitation and representation in the standards of online mapping. Finally, we are studying the possibility of **being able to automate the updating of OpenStreetMap’s railway data** with the data thus made available.

2.4 - Short term digital capacity management


In order to define the Short Term Digital Capacity Management (STDCM) path, we first need to define what a path is, as well as the actors involved. A path is the reservation of space/time on the network. It is an RC (railway company) that orders the path, and the IM (infrastructure manager) that provides the route. When we talk about “normal” train paths, the reservation request is made several years in advance (A-3), and the IM produces a document in which we can find all the requests with their assigned capacity on the network. Capacity is the total amount of track available on the rail network of a IM. It is divided between commercial capacity, intended for RCs, and work capacity, which, as its name indicates, is reserved for the various works planned on the tracks. As a preventive measure and in order to be able to manage certain contingencies (delays, technical or environmental problems), the rate of reserved train paths may not exceed 75% of the total capacity of the network.

This is where the last minute groove comes in. If there are no problems, the IM is left with about 25% of its capacity unused. So if an RC needs a path urgently (between A-1 and up to a few minutes before the rolling stock is due to depart), it can apply for a STDCM.

Challenges and ambitions

The STDCMs are currently managed by the capacity counter between A-1 and D-1, and by the operational counter from D-1 to 5 pm. Several problems arise from this; the request is tedious and the response from the counters is asynchronous (taking several days to respond), the paths are traced by hand (risk of human error) and the billing can get lost in the operations, it is estimated that tens of millions of euros are lost due to unbilled STDCM. Some digital tools already know how to solve these problems, but they do not take into account conflict management on the network, or if they do, they do not know how to manage it at the station.

It is in response to these challenges that the idea of offering digital management of last-minute train paths was born. The objective is to allow RCs to book train paths easily, by proposing a calculation of the STDCM within the theoretical forecast capacity, and by providing them with a quick response (about 3 minutes waiting time). Customers could also choose between several calculation modes. This tool is under development and should be available in the next few years.

3 - Open Source

OSRD and Open Source

Open source is a software development practice, where the software’s source code1 :

  • usually developped by multiple actors, in an open and transparent way
  • free and available for all
  • can be modified or used for derivative work by anyone
  • can be freely distributed

In practice, open source is both a legal framework for collaborative work, and a set of practices.

OSRD and Open Source

Applied to OSRD, Open Source has multiple avantages :

  • the algorigthms and know-how developped with the project are free for all
  • development cost and results are shared between actors
  • it makes interoperability between software systems easier by making helping make the landscape more homogeneous and standardized
  • helps focus collaboration around common interests
  • enables actors to tailor the software to their own interests
  • enables researchers to contribute and benefit from the project
  • it allows public actors to meet their transparency goals

Using open source to enable industrial collaboration is not a new idea:

  • Blender is a modelling, rendering and 3D animation software, which has recently become major point of industry collaboration for this industry
  • Linux, a Windows alternative used by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, most websites, cloud platforms, mobile phones, routers, and more. All these companies rely on and contribute to Linux tremendously
  • Android is the common base software for most phones. Phone manufacturers regularly contribute to android
  • PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite and other open source data bases collectively dominate the database market. Any actor with special needs can improve an existing open source tool rather than create a new one.
  • Both Firefox and Chrome are Open Source
  • Wordpress is the CMS which runs 43% of all websites. A flock of companies contribute to Wordpress and make extensions
  • Odoo is a powerful modular ERP, which has a community not unlike Wordpress

All these projects share the common property of being essential to a number of companies, without being part of what these companies sell.

It thus makes sense for these companies to collaborate with peers and competitors to build common tools, which makes exchanges easier and helps improve quality of service for all.


In practice, most open source software is developed using a forge. Through this forge, developers and users can access the source code, report bugs, plan tasks, and integrate new changes to the code. Anyone can suggest a change, report a bug or plan a task.

All changes go through a peer review, not unlike those used by the scientific community. Reviewers are software developers most familiar with components affected by the change.

Changes are integrated into the code base when everyone involved agrees to. Maintainers are responsible for keeping the project working and consistent. Maintainers are choosen among developers by developers. What motivates whether to integrate a change or not is technical viability: the goal of everyone involved is to maintain high level of service and quality standard.

  1. Source code is a set of text documents which describes how a piece of software works. It’s the result of the work of software developers. ↩︎

4 - Open Data

OSRD and Open Data

Open Data is the practice of making data public accessible under a permissive license. It is not the same as open source, which only applies to software.

Open data and open source have a symbiotic relationship : without open data, an open source railway software can only be used by industry insiders. Managing data access is hard, expensive, often not necessary, and reduces the availability of critical data.

Alone, open data already brings a number of key benefits:

  • companies can use open data in their products, which also promotes railway services
  • researchers can study the data immediately, and can find the data by themselves

Yet, open data used by an open source toolbox open up new prospects:

  • companies and researchers can use the open source tools to analyse the data, which greatly reduces the barrier to entry by alleviating the need for custom or paid-for tools
  • customers can use the toolbox to improve how they use railway services

If multiple actors have open data exploitable by an open source tool, these datasets can be combined and used to provide and plan for common services.

OSRD and Open Data

  • having rolling stock and infrastructure open data enables anyone to simulate trains, study and evaluate the railway network
  • having timetable open data enables anyone to study rail network usage