Virginia Railway Express Turns to RLBA’s Railroad Operations Simulation Team to Provide Capacity Analysis

RLBA was engaged by Northern Virginia’s commuter rail service, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), to develop a rail network simulation model depicting VRE’s existing operation. RLBA railroad operations experts employed Rail Traffic Controller (RTC©), the gold standard of rail network simulation applications, to evaluate VRE, Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS) train performance under eight VRE service plan alternatives which considered increased VRE train frequency, extension of service to Gainesville and Haymarket, VA and alternative locations of maintenance and storage facilities. Constraints upon the existing network’s capacity, such as single-track territory and single-platform passenger stations, were identified and infrastructure remedies were recommended. RLBA’s work served as the basis of regular dialogue among VRE staff and the consulting team to shape early prioritization of service plan alternatives presented to and discussed with the general public as well as advancement to a formal alternatives analysis.

Construction of the VRE RTC network model involved detailed reproduction of the actual infrastructure and operating conditions on four separate railroads: VRE, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. That level of detail was necessary to ensure that the model reflected the real-world railroad and, therefore, was credible in the eyes of VRE’s host railroads. The completed network simulations model features the complex interlockings located at the south end of Washington Union Station and south of Alexandria, VA at the junctions of the CSX and NS freight mainlines. Real-world VRE, Amtrak, CSX and NS train consists and passing times were collected by RLBA staff viewing hundreds of hours of video supplied by VRE from station security cameras. Such real-world data enabled RLBA to “construct” those trains in the RTC train file and create simulations which accurately reflected train operations.

RLBA’s experience with RTC simulations is extensive, modeling both freight and passenger railroad simulations since 1994, with RTC simulations performed on networks of up to 2,200 miles of railroad over which more than 3,100 train were dispatched. RLBA’s experience in RTC simulations incudes successfully simulating coal and bulk movement on five of the largest railroads operating in North America. Several final reports delivered to the client.