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.