How to Enable Smooth and Safe Passenger Flows in Train Stations

To analyse detailed passenger movements within their stations Network Rail recently adopted a new tool for station capacity planning.

Train stations are certainly some of the most bustling places on earth. Some of the largest stations worldwide serve millions of passengers every day. Even the medium size stations have to handle tens of thousands of people rushing to the platform or using the opportunities for retail and leisure. Have you ever wondered how these highly frequented transportation hubs manage these huge passenger flows? Station capacity planning and crowd simulation are keywords here.

Passenger Movements
Train stations have to handle tens of thousands of people that pass through them every day

Let’s jump into an example in the UK: Network Rail owns the over 2,500 train stations across the country and manages 20 of the largest and busiest themselves. To ensure the best experience for passengers, the company aims to create stations that are accessible to everyone and to ensure smooth, efficient, and safe operations, even during peak periods. Station planners have to answer questions like “How long does it take to transfer between services?” or “Are the connection times realistic?” To analyse detailed passenger movements within their stations, Network Rail recently adopted a new tool – a first-of-a-kind solution based on PTV technology.

A Detailed but Easy-To-Use Solution

When it comes to station capacity planning, microsimulation models are a kind of gold standard. Such models are very detailed and complex and hence require large amounts of data including passenger numbers, accurate station layouts, and calibrated parameters. Each individual scenario can be evaluated down to the minutest detail. They are mainly used to model large terminus stations, where there are complex interactions between passengers across multiple concourses, retail facilities, platforms, and exits. Smaller stations often rely on simple spreadsheet-based calculations without detailed representation of station layout and passenger conflicts.

David Aspital of PTV, said:

“There is a large gap in detail and modelling effort between these two options. That’s why Network Rail have worked with us at PTV to develop a new, intermediate solution where a model can be developed, and scenarios evaluated more quickly than with microsimulation but with sufficient detail to analyse different station layouts and evaluate possible interventions to manage capacity.”

The new solution for station capacity analysis allows for a station model to be built, run, and analysed in a few hours. It was developed around PTV Visum, utilising its data structures to store demand data such as matrices of passenger movements and run simulations before exporting a standard set of analyses such as passenger flows, platform densities and station clearance times.

Passenger Movements

David Aspital continues:

“Models can be set up quickly which means that different scenarios and measures can be tested very quickly and on a consistent basis. There are various possibilities of visualisation, which is another advantage. ‘Moving-dot’ animations, for example, showing passengers moving through the station or graphs of passenger numbers, density, or delay. These are easy to understand and can be even shared with stakeholders who don’t have a technical background.”

Besides station capacity analysis, planners can use the new tool for various other use cases – to model the entire passenger experience for example, or to give insights in relation to safety.

Daniel Chaney, Senior Station Capacity Planner, Network Rail adds:

“Having such a tool is a game-changer for our analysis, not only allowing us to undertake advanced assessments much more quickly but also in terms of transparency and governance, where the methodology is much more defined and controlled than previous spreadsheet modelling. The capability for Visum to interpret these models as a network or line system is a ‘first of a kind’ for the UK rail network and is an exciting opportunity to better serve our passengers, such as by minimising crowding and simplifying interchanges.”

Live Session on Station Capacity Planning

Joshua Mobberley-Clarke and Monika Zamojska from Network Rail and David Aspital from PTV Group will present the new mesoscopic tool at PTV’s  UK & Ireland 21st User Group Innovation Day on Tuesday 23rd November 2021.

Click here to find out more or to register.

This article was originally published by PTV Group.

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