Rail operations

Modelling Predictable Performance Outcomes to Deliver a High-Performing Railway

Combining operational expertise with powerful, agile and efficient railway simulation tools.
Rail Operations


As the operator of the Elizabeth line on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), the delayed opening of the new line meant that MTR had trains and crew available for services that were not yet operational. TfL identified an opportunity to bring forward some of the expected passenger benefits the future line would deliver by increasing and extending existing services on the Western Section between Reading and London Paddington.

However, with the new line and dedicated station at Paddington yet to open and the additional services requiring access to an already congested existing station at Paddington, the increased frequency could have had an adverse impact on service performance on the Western Section, including those of other train operators.

Our Approach

Through MTR’s long-standing relationship with trenolab, an independent timetable modelling consultancy and software development company, MTR proactively launched a piece of timetable modelling work to identify the performance risks. The results were conclusive – without a corresponding decrease in frequency by existing operators, the additional trains would push the route to capacity and provide little room for recovering services in the event of delay or disruption.

MTR used the results to provide a robust case for an amended specification that would deliver improved frequencies but avoid adding specific services that were likely to perform poorly. We also identified sectional running time errors that Network Rail were able to correct before the timetable was finalised.


MTR was nominated the most punctual rail operator in London and the South East in 2021

average punctuality for MTR trains during the period of the 2019 winter timetable (December 2019-May 2020), compared to 89.6% for all London and South East operators


The changes proposed by MTR helped to ensure the successful introduction of the timetable and delivered performance levels that were in line with the modelled results. MTR now undertakes timetable modelling work on TfL’s behalf for all changes to timetable specifications for the Elizabeth line, informing decisions on future timetables, infrastructure design and system software changes to deliver an ever higher-performing railway.

MTR’s operational expertise, combined with the performance of trenolab’s powerful, agile and efficient railway simulation tools, has since been recognised and used by other clients.

“A critical aspect of modern timetable planning on busy rail networks is the necessity to model, in advance of implementation, the likely performance outcome of the proposed new timetables. MTR’s performance modelling technology, developed in partnership with trenolab, proved invaluable in the modelling that supported the successful launch of the major timetable revision on Network Rail’s Western route in December 2019. MTR’s approach to this multi-operator timetable change was highly collaborative and made full use of both their innovative modelling technology and their extensive railway operational expertise.”

Dick Fearn, Independent Chair – Western Route Supervisory Board

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