An indicator to make Swiss trains even more punctual

Saving energy and meeting schedules more frequently thanks to a new device for locomotive crews from SBB

Punctuality: the passenger compartment of a Leman Express train
The cockpit and driver of a Leman Express train (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

The train drivers of the Swiss Federal Railways are supported in their work by another tool: a new display in the driver's cab informs them about the train punctuality, making it possible to respect the clock with precision in the order of seconds, with advantages also in terms of energy efficiency.

Today, about 93 out of 100 trains arrive at their destination on time, ie with a maximum delay of three minutes.

In the background, a time is calculated exactly to the second for optimal use of the tracks: more the trains respect it, the more stable and punctual the global system is.

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Punctuality: the Mondaine SBB CFF FFS watch
With an unmistakable design, the SBB CFF FFS watch from Mondaine is a Swiss classic (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

The deviation from the time shown to the driver with accuracy to the second

Since the train frequency on the railway network will continue to grow, punctuality and precision of the operation will be increasingly important.

With the punctuality display, the locomotive crew has a new tool that optimally supports them in meeting timetables.

Drivers and train drivers now see the deviation of their train from the time with precision to the second. This allows you to best stick to the scheduled time without conflicts.

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Punctuality: a shared train of the SBB CFF FFS is on the way
A common train of the SBB CFF FFS traveling through the unmistakable Swiss landscape (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

What does the punctuality display mean for locomotive workers

The solution approach of the new display is based on an optimal combination of people e of technology. Human expertise remains central, given that in real situations technology has limits.

For example, the influence of weather conditions such as rain, the rise and fall times of customers at stations or technical faults cannot be calculated in advance.

The system calculates an optimal driving profile for each train.

Before departure, the locomotive staff can choose the driving strategy that will allow them to enter the rail traffic without conflicts.

During the ride, the punctuality display provides information with precision to the second at each main signal.

If, for example, rain on the rails causes slower acceleration, a quick correction is possible.

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Punctuality: a shared train of the SBB CFF FFS is on the way
A common train of the SBB CFF FFS traveling through the unmistakable Swiss landscape (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)
(Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

Better adherence to the official time thanks to the new monitor tested for one year

SBB introduced the new punctuality display in the cab in April 2022. It is still too early to be able to provide comprehensive assessments.

However, the first measurements show a clear trend towards further improvement in punctuality.

The punctuality display has been tested for over a year and works flawlessly.

The feedback from the locomotive crew is overwhelmingly positive.

Small improvement potentials have already been identified, which will be implemented in the coming months.

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Punctuality: an SBB CFF FFS train parked in Lausanne
A train of the SBB CFF FFS during a stop at Lausanne station (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

Less useless braking and less acceleration up to the speed required by the convoy

Punctuality is not only the SBB DNAbut it also saves energy. The more punctual the trains are, the lower the demand for the entire system.

The process that requires the most energy is accelerating the train to the required speed.

The more unnecessary braking is avoided, the more positive the effect on energy consumption.

To get better flow you need to optimize the rail traffic as a whole and not just individual trains.

This requirement has been met with the driver assistance systems.

The development of the punctuality display cost around 400.000 Swiss francs.

It is expected that these costs will be compensated within six months thanks to the energy savings achieved.

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Punctuality: two SBB CFF FFS trains side by side at Geneva Champel
Two SBB CFF FFS trains side by side in a tunnel at Geneva Champel station (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)

Eight years of technological breakthroughs detailed by the ADL (2015) and vPRO (2023)

Since 2015 in Switzerland trains run more smoothly, resulting in energy and material savings, through the use of new technologies which have followed one another over time: from Adaptive Lenkung or ADL to the optimized driving profile or vPRO, up to the current punctuality display.

2015: Introduction of adaptive driving (Adaptive Lenkung, ADL)

The ADL allows for the first time "green wave" of trains: The system calculates an energy-optimized journey profile for each train and recommends the optimum speed to the locomotive crew in order to avoid unscheduled stops at stop signals and energy-intensive restarts as much as possible.

The trains therefore run more smoothly, which saves energy and materials.

In 2016, theFederal Office of Energy awarded SBB the prestigious “Watt d'Or” for the ADL Swiss prize for energy. However, the ADL does not yet provide locomotive crews with accurate punctuality information.

2020: Introduction of the well-known optimized driving profile vPRO

For further improvement, it was necessary to harmonize the information between locomotive crew, operation and timetable, an achievement achieved thanks to the integration of the ADL with the optimized driving profile vPRO.

Shortly before departure, an energy-optimised and dynamically corrected driving profile is calculated for each passenger train on the basis of currently available data.

Thanks to precise operating times, a common basis was created in the railway production: for the first time, both the locomotive staff, timetable and operation use the same information. This reduces conflicts during regular exercise.

2023: finally there is the new arrival of the punctuality display

Punctuality display is an extension of vPRO and was introduced in April 2023.

The punctuality display gives the locomotive crew an overview of the punctuality compared to the vPRO times.

The display accurate to the second is updated when a main signal passes.

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Punctuality: the Mondaine SBB CFF FFS watch
With an unmistakable design, the SBB CFF FFS watch from Mondaine is a Swiss classic (Photo: SBB CFF FFS)