Energy-efficient operation of rail vehicles

Rongfang Liu, Iakov M. Golovitcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

579 Scopus citations


This paper describes an analytical process that computes the optimal operating successions of a rail vehicle to minimize energy consumption. Rising energy prices and environmental concerns have made energy conservation a high priority for transportation operations. The cost of energy consumption makes up a large portion of the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs of transit especially rail transit systems. Energy conservation or reduction in energy cost may be one of the effective ways to reduce transit operating cost, therefore improve the efficiency of transit operations. From a theoretical point of view, the problem of energy efficient train control can be formulated as one of the functions of Optimal Control Theory. However, the classic numerical optimization methods such as discrete method of optimum programming are too slow to be used in an on-board computer even with the much improved computation power, today. The contribution of this particular research is the analytical solution that gives the sequence of optimal controls and equations to find the control change points. As a result, a calculation algorithm and a computer program for energy efficient train control has been developed. This program is also capable of developing energy efficient operating schedules by optimizing distributions of running time for an entire route or any part of rail systems. We see the major application of the proposed algorithms in fully or partially automated Train Control Systems. The modern train control systems, often referred as "positive" train control (PTC), have collected a large amount of information to ensure safety of train operations. The same data can be utilized to compute the optimum controls on-board to minimize energy consumption based on the algorithms proposed in this paper. Most of the input data, such as track plan, track profile, traction and braking characteristics, speed limits and required trip time are located in an on-board database and/or they can be transmitted via radio link to be processed by the proposed algorithm and program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-932
Number of pages16
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Transportation
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


  • Automated train operation
  • Energy consumption
  • Optimal control


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