Innovation in transport systems

The UK has one of the busiest rail networks in Europe. Ensuring that trains and their crews are in the right place, to be able to leave at the right time, is crucial to the network running smoothly. In 2008, Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said that train delays cost the UK economy over £1 billion a year.

train

Research by computer scientists at the University of Leeds led to the creation of software that is now used by more than 40 bus and train companies to construct effective crew timetables.

This is delivering cost-efficient public transport, improving services and saving over £230 million in the UK alone between 2008 and 2013. The Leeds researchers have been working on producing optimising algorithms to tackle the complexities of rail crew scheduling since the 1990s.

A spin-out company, Tracsis, was formed in 2004 to commercialise the software, and since 2008 this has been used by bidders in all UK rail franchise tenders. It is used by 70% of the train companies
currently operating in the UK as well as in Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, where the software was used to reschedule trains during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The company’s success led to the Tracsis floatation on the London Stock Exchange in November 2007 with a market capitalisation of nearly £53 million at the end of 2013 and an annual turnover of more than £10 million.

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