Innovation in transport systems

The UK has one of the busiest rail networks in Europe. Ensuring that trains and their crews are in the right place, to be able to leave at the right time, is crucial to the network running smoothly. In 2008, Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said that train delays cost the UK economy over £1 billion a year.


Research by computer scientists at the University of Leeds led to the creation of software that is now used by more than 40 bus and train companies to construct effective crew timetables.

This is delivering cost-efficient public transport, improving services and saving over £230 million in the UK alone between 2008 and 2013. The Leeds researchers have been working on producing optimising algorithms to tackle the complexities of rail crew scheduling since the 1990s.

A spin-out company, Tracsis, was formed in 2004 to commercialise the software, and since 2008 this has been used by bidders in all UK rail franchise tenders. It is used by 70% of the train companies
currently operating in the UK as well as in Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, where the software was used to reschedule trains during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The company’s success led to the Tracsis floatation on the London Stock Exchange in November 2007 with a market capitalisation of nearly £53 million at the end of 2013 and an annual turnover of more than £10 million.

Policy areas

Related case studies

Reducing blood transfusions to lower patient risk, reduce costs and save lives

More than half a million people in the UK receive a blood transfusion each year and demand is increasing. Our ageing population, and a stringent donor selection process, mean the supply of blood is limited. 40% fewer new donors came forward last year compared with a decade ago. Recognising these challenges, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shown the benefits of reducing the use of blood transfusions in intensive care and surgery.

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