Train slot search module
This module handles the search for solutions.
To reduce the problem to its simplest form and for easy and efficient
testing, inputs and outputs are strongly simplified and abstracted.
To summarize its behavior:
the solution space is described as a graph that encodes locations,
time, and speed. A pathfinding is run on this graph to find a solution.
This graph could, in a way, be seen as a decision tree,
but different paths can lead to the same node.
1 - Input format
This module takes several parameters to find a path:
- A graph describing the physical infrastructure
- Unavailable sections in time intervals
- Origin and destination point(s)
- Departure time interval
- Maximum run time
- Simulation parameters (rolling stock, time step, allowances, …)
Among those, the first 3 require more explanations.
Today, the input graph is the
But it can be any graph that represents the physical infrastructures
and the paths that can be used.
The only constraints are: the edges must have a length, and it must
be possible to compute running time on parts of an edge.
This input encodes the areas that are unavailable because of
Every edge has a set of “occupancy block”. A block is made of these elements:
- Start offset
- End offset
- Start time
- End time
Offsets are relative to the start of the edge. Each block means that
the head of the train cannot be located in the edge
segment during the given interval.
These blocks include the grid margin. If the solution needs to have
x seconds margin before the train passage, every block ends
x seconds later.
To give an example, with the following schedule, a 42m long train,
and 10m sight distance:
- The occupancy of the block 1 from t=0 to t=300 makes it unavailable
in its entirety during this time
- The last 10 meters of block 1 are unavailable from t=300 to t=360,
because the signal at the start of block 2 must be green when the
conductor sees it. It is possible to consider that this unavailability block
starts at t=130 (when the next signal isn’t green), as blocks can overlap.
- The occupancy of block 2 from t=130 to t=360 makes it unavailable
during this time. It is also unavailable from t=0, as the presence of a
train in this block would cause a warning on block 1.
- The first 42 meters of block 3 are unavailable from t=0 to t=360,
because the tail of the train must have left the block 2 at this time.
- The rest of block 3 is unavailable in its entirety from t=280 to t=360
2 - Encoding the solution space
The problem is still a pathfinding problem in a given graph.
Once the problem is encoded as a graph search, it is possible to reuse
our existing tools for this purpose.
We consider the product graph of position, time, and speed.
This means that every graph element contains these 3 variables
(among other things)
Every graph edge is computed using
to get speed and positions as functions of time.
Space is encoded with a graph that contains the physical infrastructure.
It is then “duplicated” at different times.
The nodes are then linked together in a way that reflects travel time.
- The graph is constructed on the fly as it is explored.
- It is discretized in time, to evaluate which nodes have already
been visited. We keep full accuracy of time values, but two nodes
at the same place and close times are considered identical.
- Every edge is computed with a running time computation.
- Speed isn’t discretized or considered to check visited nodes,
it’s only used to compute time.
- By default, the train always goes as fast as it can
(while still following standard allowances).
It only slows down when necessary.
For example, with the following infrastructure, using the track graph:
Exploring the solution graph can give the following result:
3 - Discontinuities and backtracking
The discontinuity problem
When a new graph edge is visited, a simulation is run to evaluate
its speed. But it is not possible to see beyond the current edge.
This makes it difficult to compute braking curves, because
they can span over several edges.
This example illustrates the problem: by default
the first edge is explored by going at maximum speed.
The destination is only visible once the second edge is visited,
which doesn’t leave enough distance to stop.
Solution : backtracking
To solve this problem, when an edge is generated with a
discontinuity in the speed envelopes, the algorithm goes back
over the previous edges to create new ones that include the
To give a simplified example, on a path of 4 edges
where the train can accelerate or decelerate by 10km/h per edge:
For the train to stop at the end of route 4, it must be at most
at 10km/h at the end of edge 3. A new edge is then created on
edge 3, which ends at 10km/h. A deceleration is computed
backwards from the end of the edge back to the start,
until the original curve is met (or the start of the edge).
In this example, the discontinuity has only been moved to the
transition between edges 2 and 3. The process is then repeated
on edge 2, which gives the following result:
Old edges are still present in the graph as they can lead to other solutions.
4 - Conflict avoidance
While exploring the graph, it is possible to end up in locations that would
generate conflicts. They can be avoided by adding delay.
Shifting the departure time
The departure time is defined as an interval in the module parameters:
the train can leave at a given time, or up to
x seconds later.
Whenever possible, delay should be added by shifting the departure time.
for example : a train can leave between 10:00 et 11:00. Leaving
at 10:00 would cause a conflict, the train actually needs to enter the
destination station 15 minutes later. Making the train leave at
10:15 solves the problem.
In OSRD, this feature is handled by keeping track, for every edge,
of the maximum duration by which we can delay the departure time.
As long as this value is enough, conflicts are avoided this way.
This time shift is a value stored in every edge of the path.
Once a path is found, the value is summed over the whole path.
This is added to the departure time.
For example :
- a train leaves between 10:00 and 11:00. The initial maximum
time shift is 1:00.
- At some point, an edge becomes unavailable 20 minutes after the
train passage. The value is now at 20 for any edge accessed from here.
- The departure time is then delayed by 5 minutes to avoid a conflict.
The maximum time shift value is now at 15 minutes.
- This process is applied until the destination is found,
or until no more delay can be added this way.
Once the maximum delay is at 0, the delay needs to be added
between two points of the path.
The idea is the same as the one used to fix speed discontinuities:
new edges are created, replacing the previous ones.
The new edges have an engineering allowance, to add the delay where
it is possible.
is a feature of the running-time
calculation module. It adds a given delay between two points of
a path, without affecting the speeds on the rest of the path.
5 - Standard allowance
The STDCM module must be usable with
The user can set an allowance value, expressed either as a function of
the running time or the travelled distance. This time must be added to the
running time, so that it arrives later compared to its fastest possible
For example: the user can set a margin of 5 minutes per 100km.
On a 42km long path that would take 10 minutes at best,
the train should arrive 12 minutes and 6 seconds after leaving.
This can cause problems to detect conflicts, as an allowance would move
the end of the train slot to a later time.
The allowance must be considered when we compute conflicts as
the graph is explored.
The allowance must also follow the MARECO model:
the extra time isn’t added evenly over the whole path,
it is computed in a way that requires knowing the whole path.
This is done to optimize the energy used by the train.
Linear margin expressed as a function of time
As a first step, the problem is solved with a linear margin,
i.e. added evenly over the whole path.
The speed is simply modified by a constant factor.
computed during the graph traversal are not modified, they are always
at maximum speed. But they are paired with a speed factor, which is used
to compute running time and to evaluate conflicts.
The final envelope, with the allowance, is only computed once a path
Linear margin expressed as a function of distance
The principle is generally the same, but with an extra difficulty:
the speed factor isn’t constant over the path.
When a train goes faster, it travels more distance in the same time,
which increases the allowance time and the speed factor.
Because the train speed changes over the path, the speed factor
changes from one edge to another. This causes irregular speed curves.
This is exclusively a post-processing step,
because it isn’t possible to compute the MARECO envelope
without knowing the full train path.
When looking for a path, linear allowances are used.
This means that conflicts may appear at this step.
To avoid them, the following procedure is applied:
- A mareco allowance is applied over the whole path.
- If there are conflict, the first one is considered.
- The mareco allowance is split in two intervals.
The point where the first conflict appeared is set
to be at the same time as the envelope with a linear allowance,
removing the conflict at this point.
- This process is repeated iteratively until no conflict is found.
6 - Implementation details
This page is about implementation details.
It isn’t necessary to understand general principles,
but it helps before reading the code.
This refers to
in the project.
This class is used to make it easier to create instances of
STDCMEdge, the graph edges. Those contain many attributes,
most of which can be determined from the context (e.g. the
STDCMEdgeBuilder class makes some parameters optional
and automatically computes others.
Once instantiated and parametrized, an
STDCMEdgeBuilder has two methods:
Collection<STDCMEdge> makeAllEdges() can be used to create all
the possible edges in the given context for a given route.
If there are several “openings” between occupancy blocks, one edge
is instantiated for each opening. Every conflict, their avoidance,
and their related attributes are handled here.
STDCMEdge findEdgeSameNextOccupancy(double timeNextOccupancy):
This method is used to get the specific edges that uses a certain
opening (when it exists), identified here with the time of the next
occupancy block. It is called whenever a new edge must be re-created
to replace an old one. It calls the previous method.
The methods mentioned here are defined in
The function used to define pathfinding cost sets which path
is used over another. The result is always the one that minimizes
this cost (as long as the heuristic is admissible).
Here, two parameters are used: total run time and departure time.
The latter has a very small weight compared to the former,
so that the fastest path is found. More details
are explained in the documentation of those methods.
The algorithm used to find a path is an A*, with a heuristic based
on geographical coordinates.
However, the coordinates of generated infrastructures are arbitrary
and don’t reflect the track distance. It means that,
for the generated infrastructures, the path may not always be the
It would be possible to use this heuristic to determine whether
the current node can lead to a path that doesn’t take
longer than the maximum allowed total run time. But for the same
reason, adding this feature would break any STDCM test on generated
infras. More details in