Rolling Planning: much-awaited innovation

A new capacity product named “Rolling Planning” (hereafter RP) is one of the key innovations coming from the TTR concept. The European Commission proposed a legal introduction of RP in the proposed draft Regulation 443 (see also FTE analysis), and in the ongoing political negotiations of the European Parliament and Council and so far, no side seems to object to the concept itself. FTE and ERFA (European Rail Freight Association) very much support the introduction of Rolling Planning and ask for its implementation in a European-harmonised way.

What problem does Rolling Planning aim to solve?

In today's world, the demand-driven freight segment places their capacity requests already 8 months prior to the timetable change (X-8), although their customers have not provided them with the transport details or particular tender for an RU has not been completed. It has to be noted that the behaviour of the freight customers cannot be changed due to high competition with other means of transport, which have much higher flexibility. Not placing these requests would mean a high risk that there is no available capacity at all, or in a quality that the customer is not willing to pay.

The downside is that these "phantom" or "just in case" requests are afterwards coordinated by the IMs in the construction of the annual timetable. Unfortunately, once the transport details are known (or one of the RUs wins a tender), these requests/paths are modified or cancelled. As a result, there is an unnecessary workload on the side of the RUs and IMs.

What is Rolling Planning?

Shortly said: safeguarded capacity for short-term needs with possible multi-annual validity.

Safeguarding aspect: RP is expected to be a capacity product safeguarded from the annual timetable phase (not requestable at X-8) and open for requesting only from 4 months before the first day of operation. This does not necessarily mean that there are pre-planned fixed RP paths. From the timetable optimisation point of view, it is much better to use a flexible capacity bandwidth that can move to a certain extent (keeping the same quality such as speed and weight), and by this, allowing flexibility also for earlier requested annual timetable needs, such as passenger services or supply-driven freight.

Multiannual aspect: RP requests can be placed for up to 36 months. Note that the freight contracts often go over a single yearly timetable period, and freight customers are not interested in the railway´s legacy of “some timetable period”, which road transport does not have. Thus multi-annual allocation of capacity is one of the important aspects influencing the production costs for the rail customers. RP request should also remove the inefficient system, where RUs have to request the same capacity for each year individually in different timeframes, different processes and often even different software.

Will Rolling Planning be used? And how much?

FTE collected analysis of 8 freight RUs, to show how much the safeguarding and multi-annual aspect would be used. In their answers, you can see how much their traffic is expected to move from the annual timetable system to the Rolling Planning capacity product, either due to the fact that the current annual deadline is for them too early (safeguarding aspect) or because their customer-contracts last over more than one artificial yearly timetable period (multiannual aspect). More data you may find in the FTE further evidence to the EU Impact Assessment.

RU 1

Safeguarding aspect:

Ca. 40% (traffic that currently has no signed contract by X-8)


Multiannual aspect:

99% of traffic for 1 year or less.

RU 2

Safeguarding aspect:

Almost 100% of traffic.


Multiannual aspect:

Currently, our customers wish to conclude the contracts for only 1 year, due to low reliability of paths. Our market research suggests that if this changes around 50% of traffic might be contracted for a period of 3 years.

RU 3


Safeguarding aspect:

Between 10-30%, depending on the corridor.


Multiannual aspect:

The most frequent duration is 1 year, a limited number of customer contracts between 3 and 5 years.

RU 4

Safeguarding aspect:

95%. Already today 95% of traffic is contracted only few weeks/months prior to the start.


Multiannual aspect:

Most traffic contracted for 1 year, part of the market for 2 years. Above 2 years almost not. But 1-year contracts are often in two annual timetable periods. 

RU 5

Safeguarding aspect:

Not possible to estimate. There is a wagonload network, which is used to accommodate the individual needs of customers. Besides, there is a certain market today that is requested in very short term (raw goods, pulpwood to/from ports), but it is unclear if the TTR Rolling Planning product with the latest deadline 1 month prior to the start would be suitable, especially, as this cargo might have delay shipping or be affected by TCR in the short term.


Example: recently, we requested in ad hoc process one train 5x per week, since these paths have to respect TCRs and not be in conflict with all paths allocated in annual timetable, we received 62 timetable variants.


Multiannual aspect:

80% of cargo we handle in wagonload is contracted for 3-5 years. For block-trains, the typical contract period is 3-10 years.

RU 6

Safeguarding aspect:



Multiannual aspect:

74% of block trains exceed a single timetable period.

RU 7

Safeguarding aspect:

25 %


Multiannual aspect:

60% of trains exceed a single timetable period.

RU 8

Safeguarding aspect:



Multiannual aspect:

70% of the traffic exceeds one annual timetable period.


How about the passenger traffic?

Losers of the current system are also passenger RUs, because their stable annual requests have to be sometimes compromised with these unspecified demands. Moreover, the IMs´ timetabling staff loses time in the path construction and conflict resolution, which does not allow earlier allocation of passenger paths – and thus blocks the earlier opening of ticket sales.  Furthermore, passenger RUs would profit from the reduced workload as well.

Besides, the RNE-FTE TTR Process Group agreed that the Rolling Planning capacity might also be available for passenger traffic, not strictly partitioned to freight and passenger. FTE interviewed 7 passenger RUs of which two considered that RP might be a useful product for empty passenger train runs or for additional passenger trains for special events.

What will happen now with Rolling Planning?

The sector sees the benefit of Rolling Planning on both the RU-side (FTE Plenary Paper, FTE-ERFA-Allrail Paper) and on the IM-side (Chapter 3 of Common RNE-FTE Understanding and CER paper). However, it is up to the legislators to come up with the final version of the EU Regulation that gives a stronger legal background to RP in Europe. ERFA and FTE would very much support it.

Furthermore, the sector would wish to try to define the technical details beyond the Regulation itself, to tackle several open questions and also the relation with the other multi-annual instrument called “Framework Agreement”. Thus, a dedicated FTE-RNE Task Force dealing with both is expected to start working in April 2024. Stay tuned, we keep you informed.