Relative Capacity and Performance of Fixed and Moving Block Train Control Systems

North American railroads are facing increasing demand for safe, efficient and reliable freight and passenger transportation. The high cost of constructing additional track infrastructure to increase capacity and improve reliability provides railroads with a strong financial motivation to increase the productivity of their existing mainlines by reducing the headway between trains. The objective of this research is to assess potential for advanced Positive Train Control (PTC) systems with virtual and moving blocks to improve the capacity and performance of Class 1 railroad mainline corridors. Knowledge of train delay performance and line capacity under moving blocks will aid railway practitioners in determining if the benefits of these systems justify the required incremental investment over current PTC overlay implementations. This project proposes to investigate the potential capacity benefits of advanced PTC on several fronts. The project team will first use Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) software to simulate and compare the delay performance and capacity of train operations on a representative rail corridor under fixed wayside block signals and moving blocks. The experiment will also investigate possible interactions between the capacity benefits of moving blocks and traffic volume, traffic composition and amount of second main track. Next, the project team will use RTC simulation to determine if specific operating plans and track infrastructure layouts can maximize the capacity benefits of advanced PTC. Then, in support of future operational regimes that leverage technology-assisted train operations, the project team will investigate if advanced PTC can help mitigate the potential capacity impacts of operating a greater number of shorter trains over a rail corridor. Finally, the project team will investigate if analytical approaches to highway traffic flow theory can used to describe and predict the occurrence of shockwaves in train operations under PTC with moving blocks.


    • Status: Active
    • Contract Numbers:



    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

      University Transportation Centers Program
      Department of Transportation
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Principal Investigators:

      Dick, Tyler

    • Start Date: 20190415
    • Expected Completion Date: 20200915
    • Actual Completion Date: 0

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01701577
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: National University Rail Center (NURail)
    • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC52, NURail2019-UIUC-R23
    • Files: UTC, RiP
    • Created Date: Apr 8 2019 2:58PM