Allocation Principles

The purpose of this page is to give a better understanding of the project of Allocation Principles that is currently ongoing within FTE/RNE with the involvement of interested FTE/RNE members. The following questions are answered below:

  • What are the allocation principles?
  • What are the shortcomings of the current system?
  •  What is the social-economic modelling?
  • Is the socio-economic approach distant future / too difficult to implement?
  • What does FTE do in regard of the Allocation Principles Project? Where does the project stand now?


What are the allocation principles?

On many parts of the European railway network happens that at a certain time, there is a capacity shortage, either because there is a high demand from Railway Undertakings (RUs), or because the standard capacity is reduced due to Temporary Capacity Restriction (TCR). In both cases, the remaining capacity cannot satisfy all needs, the involved stakeholders may try to coordinate and negotiate, but if this does not lead to a result, some last-resort allocation rules or allocation principles have to be applied, and the available capacity distributed.

What are the shortcomings of the current system?

Shortcoming n.1: In most countries, there are already existing allocation rules based on the traffic types/traffic paths (described in each Network Statement), which gives a certain capacity need ultimate priority over others. This might not lead to optimal usage of capacity, because:

  • The traffic with a higher position in the priority list is not motivated to compromise – since it will win the case if the rule is applied.
  • There might be a better solution for the whole sector, accommodating more capacity if the involved parties (including the IMs) make certain bearable adjustments to the timetable (compared to one winner taking all the capacity).

This might be overcome by the socio-economic modelling.

Shortcoming n.2: these priority lists were developed nationally in isolation, without considering the international aspect, thus it is unclear how to proceed in case more networks involved in the conflict get to contradicting results.

This to a certain extent endangers the proper functioning of the Single European Railway Area, and a solution should be investigated.

Shortcoming n.3: the existing rules focus only on the situations after the annual path requests are submitted. Nevertheless, in the future, there have to also be allocation principles for earlier periods, for instance for times when major Temporary Capacity Restrictions are scheduled.  


What is the social-economic modelling?

In the classical approach, if there is an unsolved conflict between 2 train path requests, the one with the higher position on the priority list will become the winner, and the other has to either completely adjust to the remaining capacity or its request is rejected. Other train path requests not being directly in the timetable conflict are not involved.

In the socio-economic approach, more scenarios can be evaluated from the socio-economic point of view and the socio-economic value of each scenario is artificially monetised (similarly to when doing cost-benefit analyses). Scenarios will naturally differ in each case, for instance, the speeds of all affected capacities/paths can be adjusted (reduced for high-speed traffic, an increase of average speed for regional traffic by abandoning intermediate stops, diversion of some freight traffic via diversionary line etc.). Another thing, that is new compared to the classic approach, is that these scenarios might also include optimisation of paths, that were not originally in timetable conflict. Let´s visualise it in a picture. The example below shows a hypothetical example for an annual timetable, where are 2 «wished paths» in conflict. Instead of selecting one winner, in «Scenario 2» timetable of both paths and even another path are adjusted to accommodate all needs. Thanks to this, 3 paths can be planned or allocated instead of 2 in the classic allocation rules framework.

The socio-economic modelling is not restricted only to paths conflict, for instance, timing of the Temporary Capacity Restrictions (TCRs) can be evaluated as well. Currently, most IMs plan their TCRs in a way that they minimise the costs, but this approach often significantly impacts the existing traffic. Perhaps there are solutions where slightly higher IM costs are justified by the significantly lower socio-economical impact on the traffic. 

The picture above shows the comparison of different hypothetical TCR timings. Scenario 1 (TCR during the day) generates the lowest costs for the IM, while having a high-cost impact on the RUs. Scenario 2 (TCR in the later evening) has lower extra costs for RUs, but on the expense side, higher costs for the IM. The recommended scenario in this hypothetical example is Nr 3, where the overall socio-economic impact on RUs and IMs is the lowest. Note that the example is only hypothetical, the best scenario can be for instance the execution during the day, off-peak, in the winter period and so forth.

Would the socio-economic approach require a lot of resources to evaluate each conflicting situation individually?

No, it does not have to. The example of Sweden shows that the values expressed for instance in «minute-price for deviation from the wish» can be standardised. Thus, you do not have to always collect data from individuals, but you use mutually agreed standard values.

The calculation itself can be a question of seconds, the formula can be integrated into the planning system, as in Sweden. The IT solution even does not have to be expensive, in Norway they use an excel file.

Is the socio-economic approach distant future / too difficult to implement?

Although the implementation is not always a piece of cake, the benefits can outweigh the effort.  Note that socio-economic modelling is in a certain form already used in Sweden, Norway, Finland and for maintenance works also in the Netherlands. The potential fear has to be taken seriously, so within the project the work package Change Management (see below) was launched to help every country/IM with the implementation.

What does FTE do in regard of the Allocation Principles Project? Where does the project stand now?

The project has started in cooperation with the interested IMs and RailNetEurope in 2021. Two work packages (WP) were launched «Business requirements» and «Change management». The graphical overview below shows how the project has developed since the start.

WP Business Requirements

The primary aim of this WP is to propose the future European framework for allocation principles, using the advantages of the socio-economic modelling and considering the principle of the Single European Railway Area. Firstly, the participating RUs and IMs analysed and sought inspiration from the already existing models in Scandinavian countries. Afterwards, the group decided to look for external support from a consultant/university to perform a feasibility study and has worked on the documentation for the tender. It is planned to make the results of the study available for the sector.

The tender for the external support was launched on 02 March. More information about the tender is available here. In October 2023, the contract has been formally signed with the esteemed research partners, RISE Research Institute of Sweden (RISE) and the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), see the news annoucment.

The study will encompass various critical elements, probing into the implications and challenges associated with the application of socio-economic criteria in railway capacity allocation. We anticipate receiving interim findings from this study for iterative discussion with the RU-IM task force, with the final report expected in Q4 of 2024. In addition, we would like to emphasise that the deliverables would not cover the whole range of the open questions within the project, thus further studies and research might be required in the later stage.

Read about the 1st Intermediate Report from 13 March 2024.



WP Change Management 

The socio-economic modelling might at the first sight look too complex to implement, however, if properly managed, the implementation can be successful, the new system smooth and the benefits significantly outweigh the effort. Since the experience with such projects is limited, this WP aimed to collect the experience from the Nordic countries and provide guidance for future implementers on how to manage the project to a successful end. Interviews were conducted with the Norwegian, Swedish and Finish IM, and a «Change Management Recommendation» was made available for the sector/public.

Allocation Principles Change Management Recommedantion v1.0 (PDF)