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The University of Southampton
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Dr John Armstrong BE, MSc, EngD, CEng MICE, MIRO, MCIHT

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr John Armstrong is Senior Research Fellow within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

John is a transport engineer and planner with twenty years' experience in a wide range of transport-related matters, and a specialist in railway operations planning and analysis. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton’s Transportation Research Group (TRG), and a Transportation Engineer with Jacobs in London. John has 10 years of experience in highway and other civil engineering construction work, and 20 years in the assessment, planning and design of transport systems and facilities. The latter experience includes the economic assessment of major highway schemes, public transport route planning, railway capacity and performance analysis, demand forecasting and operations modelling, and general transport-related data processing and analysis. He completed an Arup-sponsored Engineering Doctorate at TRG in 2005, based on research in the simulation of railway operations and performance and the management of disruptive incidents on the railways, and subsequently became a Visiting Research Fellow at TRG.

John formally joined TRG as a part-time Senior Research Fellow in 2010, to work on the OCCASION (Overcoming the Capacity Constraints Imposed by Nodes on Railway Networks) project. In the course of OCCASION, he developed methods and tools for assessing capacity utilisation at railway nodes, i.e. stations and junctions, building upon and complementing the approaches already available for application to the links between nodes. He subsequently applied these techniques and tools to Network Rail’s Capacity Charge Recalibration (CCR) for Control Period 5 (2014-2019), undertaken by Arup with support from TRG. His work on the CCR included oversight of the development of a national network model and the assignment of ~60,000 weekday, Saturday and Sunday train services and ~1.8m annual congestion-related reactionary delay records to the network, to calculate hourly and three-hourly levels of capacity utilisation and delay on each network link. These assignments and results were then used to identify the relationship between capacity utilisation and delay, and thus to recalibrate the capacity charge. John subsequently worked on TRG’s collaborative DITTO (Developing Integrated Tools To Optimise) Rail Systems project, building on the work undertaken for OCCASION and the CCR to investigate the relationships between capacity utilisation and delay at nodes and to identify practical upper limits of capacity utilisation. In the course of DITTO, he also worked in collaboration with European railway Infrastructure Managers on the related ACCVA (Assessment of Capacity Calculation Values) project, following on from their update of the UIC 406 ‘Capacity’ leaflet. He has also worked with Network Rail’s Performance and Timetable Development teams on the development of objective measures of timetable quality in relation to performance (i.e. punctuality and reliability).

In addition to the detailed operational and performance aspects of railways, John has an interest in their wider aspects, and has published work on alternative views of their future prospects, which was used in the course of the development by Arup, again supported by TRG, of an Operational Philosophy for Britain’s railways over the coming decades. As a transport mode with a relatively low environmental impact, rail has a potentially valuable role to play in mitigating climate change, but is also vulnerable to its effects, notably sea level rise, increased intensity of rainfall and flooding, and needs to adapt to these; John has also undertaken research and published in this area.


Research group

Transportation Group

Research project(s)

Rail Capacity and Demand

Research work in rail capacity at Southampton was initiated with the OCCASION project (2010-2012), followed-up with a Knowledge Transfer Secondment with Arup (2013-14) and continues with the DITTO project (2014-2017). Research work on rail demand forecasting at Southampton was initiated with Rail Research UK (2003-2010) and has continued with a series of grants, contracts and consultancy studies.


OCCASION was funded by the RSSB, EPSRC and DfT and had objectives to identify and investigate innovative methods of increasing the capacity of nodes (i.e. junctions and stations) on the railway network, without substantial investment in additional infrastructure. To this end, a state-of-the-art review of recent and on-going work in this area was conducted, and tools were developed to (i) assess existing and predicted levels of capacity utilisation at nodes, thus filling a gap in the current assessment ‘toolbox’, and (ii) investigate improved options for re-routeing and re-scheduling trains, with a view to reducing capacity utilisation levels and making more use of the capacity potentially available, including consideration of the interactions between timetable changes at adjacent nodes. Using a case study of Peterborough and the East Coast Main Line, these tools provided solutions to deliver reduced levels of capacity utilisation, and thus increases in capacity and/or service reliability. Incremental changes to existing railway technologies (e.g. improved points) and operating practice (e.g. relaxations of the Timetable Planning Rules) were investigated, as were concepts from other modes (e.g. road and air transport) and sectors (e.g. production scheduling). The capacity utilisation analysis tools have since been used in collaboration with Arup in the Capacity Charge Recalibration for Network Rail.

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Dr John Armstrong
Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Burgess Road, Southampton, SO16 7QF

Room Number: 176/4007

Facsimile: (023) 8059 3152

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