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OpenTrack began in the mid-1990s as a research project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The aim of the project Object-Oriented Modeling in Railways, was to develop a catalyst for practical economic solutions to complex railway technology problems.

Today, the railway simulation tool OpenTrack is a well-established railway planning software and it is used by railways, the railway supply industry, consultancies and universities in different countries.

OpenTrack allows to model, simulate and analyze the following types of rail systems:

OpenTrack supports the following kinds of tasks:

  • Determining the requirements for a railway network’s infrastructure
  • Analyzing the capacity of lines and stations
  • Calculation of minimum headways (headway calculation), e.g. using the OpenTrack tool Headway Calculator
  • Rolling stock studies (for example, future requirements)
  • Running time calculation
  • Timetable construction; analyzing the robustness of timetables (single or multiple simulation runs, Monte-Carlo simulation)
  • Evaluating and designing various signaling systems, such as discrete block systems, short blocks, moving blocks, LZB, CBTC (communication-based train control), ATP, ATO, ETCS Level 1, ETCS Level 2, ETCS Level 3 (see also: ERTMS), PTC (Positive Train Control)
  • Analyzing the effects of system failures (such as infrastructure or train failures) and delays
  • Calculation of power and energy consumption of train services
  • Simulation of railway power supply systems (using OpenPowerNet)


Network data

OpenTrack describes a railway network in special graphs called double vertex graphs. A user can edit the network’s topology graphically. Every element of the graph holds various attributes. An edge, for example, holds its length, the gradient, the maximum speed for different train categories and much more. A user can create and manage objects for edges and vertices, and also signals, switches, stations and routes. The following figure shows part of a topology.

Example of a station (Olten, Switzerland). This graphic is also available as a PDF document.

Rolling stock data

OpenTrack stores each locomotive’s technical characteristics, including tractive effort/speed diagrams, load, length, adhesion factor, and power systems. A database organizes locomotives into groups called depots. A simulated train uses one or more locomotives from a depot together with a number of passenger or freight cars (carriages or wagons). Trainsets are also organized in a database.

Timetable data

The timetable database stores information for each train at each station, including arrival and departure times, minimal stop time, and connections to other trains.

The user can edit the timetable data either in textual form (left window) or directly within the train graph by using the mouse (right window) (See also: video section).

A user can compare timetable and actual data either in a table or directly in the train graphic.


OpenTrack offers interfaces to general data formats (such as ASCII and XML) and to some railway-specific formats (including FBS, Protim, Simu VII and others).

OpenTrack also supports railML, the XML-based standard format for the exchange of railway data. Download the railML product sheet (PDF-File, 800 kB).

Timetable data
railML (Versions 1.0 and 2.2)
Netvisio (SMA)
MS Excel
OpenTrack ASCII
OpenTrack XML
Viriato (via railML)
FBS (via railML)
OpenTimeTable (via railML)
Simu VII (IBS GmbH)
UK Planning Inferface Format (.PIF-Format, Protim)
SimWalk (via railML)
Treno (via railML und Treno-Format)

Infrastructure data
railML (Versions 1.0 and 2.2)
MS Excel
Google Earth (station data)
OpenTrack ASCII
Siemens Infrastructure Format
ETC Infrastructure Format
SIMON (ÅF-Industriteknik)
Infraspeed Infrastructure Format
Treno Format
Bentley Rail Track

Rolling stock data (tractive effort/speed diagrams)
railML (Versions 1.0 and 2.2)
OpenTrack ASCII
SimWalk (via railML)


The following figure shows how the simulation tool works. Predefined trains run according to the timetable on a railway network. During the simulation, OpenTrack calculates train movements under the constraints of the signaling system and timetable. After a simulation run, OpenTrack can analyze and display the resulting data in the form of diagrams, train graphs, occupation diagrams and statistics.

OpenTrack handles single simulation runs as well as multiple simulation runs where random generators produce different initial delays and station delays.

Animation of the simulation

Screenshot of OpenTrack during the simulation. The video can be downloaded.

The modules of the simulation (this graphic is also available as a PDF document)

During the simulation, trains try to obey the given timetable. The differential equations for speed and distance are the basis for calculating a train’s movement. The signaling system of the railway network poses constraints. Occupied tracks and restrictive signal aspects may impede a train’s progress.

During the simulation, every train continuously stores its speed, acceleration, position, power consumption and other data. This data can be evaluated after the simulation.

The user can watch the simulation in an animation mode, which shows the trains running and lets the user analyze occupied tracks, reserved tracks and signal aspects..

Headway Calculator / Headway Calculation

Based on a number of input parameters, the headway calculator computes the minimum headway between two trains and is able to identify the critical block section. The two trains may vary in type (e.g. intercity, commuter, freight, etc.), route and stopping pattern. The headway calculation works for fixed block (discrete block), moving block and CBTC systems.

This graphic is also available as a PDF document.

Output data

After a simulation, OpenTrack offers a number of evaluations. Evaluations of a train, line or station are possible. For a train, OpenTrack offers diagrams such as acceleration vs. distance, speed vs. distance, and obstructions. For a line, there are evaluations in the form of diagrams of train movements, route occupation and line profiles. Every station produces output about all the trains that used it, including arrival, stopping and departure times.

The user can view output data in a diagram, or export or evaluate it in a readable ASCII table.

The OpenTrack application

The OpenTrack application is available for the following operating systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 (32 and 64 Bit), Windows 8 (32 and 64 Bit), Mac OS X and MacOS X Server.

The application is available in two versions. The full version of OpenTrack offers an unlimited number of running trains per simulation. The limit of the OpenTrack Light version is two trains per simulation.


The following images are examples of the graphical user interface of OpenTrack for different Windows versions and MacOSX.

Windows 8


OpenTrack produces a number of outputs in text and/or graphic form.

Train graph (offline and online visualization). This graphic is also available as a PDF document.

Speed/distance diagram

Distance/time diagram

Power and energy output (red:Power in, blue: mech. Power, green: energy/distance-diagram)

Occupation diagram

Occupation statistics (example: peak hour occupation percentage). This output is available as a PDF document.

Delay statistics

A user can obtain every output in the form of ASCII text, for import into Microsoft Excel for example.

OpenTimeTable is able to visualize and analyze the outputs of multiple OpenTrack simulation runs.

OpenTrack API

OpenTrack offers an application programming interface (API) to connect other applications with OpenTrack. The other application can send standardized commands to OpenTrack and gets defined status messages back from OpenTrack. Technically, SOAP-Messages are exchanged via HTTP (SOAP over HTTP).

Possible applications:

  • Implementation of customer-specific Dispatching Algorithms
  • Comparison of new Dispatching Strategies
  • Development and Analysis of new Concepts in Train Control (e.g. optimizing Energy Consumption, reducing Delays and Conflicts)
  • In-depth Evaluation of Railway Operations

A presentation of the OpenTrack API allows a better insight into the functionality of the API. (Download of the presentation - PDF, 2.9 MB). For further information on the OpenTrack API, please contact us.

Partners and customers

In the OpenTrack project, our company and the Institute for Transport Planning and Systems of the ETH Zürich co-operate with a number of partners from railway companies, the railway supply industry, consultancies and universities. More than 220 companies and organizations use licenses of OpenTrack.

The complete list of users can be found on the desktop version of our website.

Documents / downloads

PDF files related to OpenTrack

Article in the journal "Güterbahnen" (Freight Railways)

Issue 2/2003 of the journal Güterbahnen included the article ""Ermittlung und Leistungsfähigkeit einer Werkbahn mit OpenTrack" (Investigations on the Capacity of an Industrial Railway with OpenTrack). We would be pleased Holland Railconsult. The report can be downloaded as a PDF file (in Dutch).

Comprail 2004 conference paper

Our paper Railroad Simulation using OpenTrack was presented at the Comprail 2004 conference in Dresden, Germany.

Railway Gazette 04/2006

In issue April 2006 of the journal Railway Gazette the authors T. Salt and K. Mears from Interfleet Technlology published an article "Automation gets the most out of mining railway infrastructure". We would be pleased to send you a free copy of the article.

Australian Government: North-South Rail Corridor Study

The North-South Rail Corridor Study (where OpenTrack was used as one of the tools) has comprehensively examined the adequacy, given the current major infrastructure investment programme, of the existing Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane rail corridor to meet future freight demand.The study examined different options, including possible enhancements to the coastal line, as well as alternative inland routes. Key issues included infrastructure links, engineering, environmental, urban and regional planning issues. A financial and economic analysis was also undertaken on each of the route options.

OpenPowerNet - Simulation of Railway Power Supply Systems

Presentation about the Simulation of Railway Power Supply Systems (Co-Simulation of OpenPowerNet with OpenTrack) (PDF, 2.7 MB, Download).

Two screenshots from the OpenPowerNet project for Zurich (simulation of tram system Zurich) after the postprocessing of the OpenTrack output data to Google Earth. © 2008 by IfB.

Railway Gazette 07/2008

Sharing tracks in Sydney is the title of an article published in the Railway Gazette 07/2008 by Ian Imrie from Plateway. The article describes the complexity of sharing tracks between freight and passenger trains in the Sydney area.

Supporting the study, the two Swiss Tools Viriato and OpenTrack were used with success.

Presentation to RTSA Wellington (NZ)

The company Plateway from Clyde, Australia gave a presentation about OpenTrack and simulation tools in general in June 2012 to RTSA in Wellington.

OpenTrack user workshop 2008

OpenTrack presentations:
  • Daniel Hürlimann, OpenTrack Railway Technology Ltd., Switzerland - OpenTrack version 1.5 - new features (Download PDF-File)

  • Arnd Stephan, IfB, Germany - OpenPowerNet – Simulation of Railway Power Supply Systems (Download PDF-File)

  • G. Medeossi, University of Trieste, Italy - OpenTrack in Italy. An example: the node of Roma (Download PDF-File)

  • Rob Goverde, TU Delft, The Netherlands - The application of OpenTrack in education and research at Delft University of Technology (Download PDF-File)

  • Phillip Imrie, Plateway, Australia - Modelling of Service Reliability Using OpenTrack (Download PDF-File)

  • Giorgio Mastella, NET Engineering, Italy - An application of OpenTrack in the design of Veneto Regional Metropolitan Railway System (Download PDF-File)

  • Frederic Birer, Egis-Rail, France - OpenTrack simulation for suburban tunnel in Paris (RER B & D) (Download PDF-File)

  • Tero Kosonen, VR Track, Finland - Railway simulation using OpenTrack in Finland (Download PDF-File)

  • Andreas Schoebel, TU Wien, Austria - Anwendungsbeispiel für den Einsatz von OpenTrack im Rahmen einer ausgewählten Diplomarbeit an der TU Wien (Download PDF-File)

  • Thomas Graffagnino, SBB AG, Switzerland - railML-Datenaustausch im Rahmen von STABILO Analysen (Download PDF-File)

OpenTrack user workshop 2010

OpenTrack presentations:
  • Daniel Hürlimann, OpenTrack Railway Technology Ltd., Switzerland - OpenTrack version 1.6 - new features (Download PDF-File)

  • Martin Jacob, IfB, Germany - Operation and Power Supply Simulation for China Railways (Download PDF-File)

  • G. Medeossi, University of Trieste, Italy - OpenTrack Simulation of complex nodes - Case Studies in Italy (Download PDF-File)

  • Arjan Wieringa, DHV, The Netherlands - OpenTrack for design support - Verification of feasible solutions (Download PDF-File)

  • Phillip Imrie, Plateway, Australia - Recent Australian OpenTrack Projects (Download PDF-File)

  • Doris Tuna, TU Wien, Austria - Anwendungsbeispiel Salzburg Hauptbahnhof - Zur Beurteilung von Infrastrukturvarianten (Download PDF-File)

  • Daniel Kerwien, ETC, Germany - Überprüfung der schienenseitigen Leistungsfähigkeit des zukünftigen intermodalen Terminals Oslo-Alnabru mit Hilfe von OpenTrack (Download PDF-File)

  • Alex Schmid, Savannah Simulations AG, Switzerland - OpenTrack + SimWalk Transport „Closing the gap“ between railway network and passenger simulation (Download PDF-File)

OpenTrack user workshop 2013

OpenTrack presentations:
  • Johannes Meister and Fosca Romani, TTK, Karlsruhe - Light Rail Modelling with OpenTrack - Examples and Perspectives (Download PDF-File)

  • Torben Brand and Joel Sultan, Jernbaneverket, Norway - Project Infrastructure Modell Opentrack - Building a national network (Download PDF-File)

  • Elin Reitan and Sven-Jöran Schrader, NSB, Norway - Use of Simulation to Evaluate Performance of Timetable Concepts (Download PDF-File)

  • Ian Imrie, Plateway, Australia, Trevor Bagnall Queensland Rail, Australia and Martin Jacob IfB Germany - Holistic Capacity of Rail Networks - Exposing Asset Deficiencies in a complex System (Download PDF-File)

  • Giorgio Medeossi, LIFT, Italy - Rail Traffic Explorer and Simulationbooster (Download PDF-File)

OpenTrack user workshop 2015

The last OpenTrack user workshop was held in Zurich in an extended setting together with Viriato users (SMA und Partner AG) as well as partners of systransis AG from the 11 to 13 June 2015 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). On the workshop website you will find all the presentations together with other information about the event.

OpenTrack presentations:
  • Carole Raynard, SMA and Partner AG, Switzerland - Simulation of a Commuter Network - Methodology and practical implementation (Download PDF-File)

  • Phillip Imrie, Plateway, Australia - Large Freight Networks (Download PDF-File)

  • David Koopman, Royal HaskoningDHV, The Netherlands - Assessment of operational Feasibility Dutch Network - Timetable 2014 and 2017 (Download PDF-File)

  • Raimond Wuest, ZHAW Winterthur, Switzerland - OpenTrack Speed-Instruction API - first Experiences and Requests for the future Functionality (Download PDF-File)

  • Martin Jacob, IfB, Germany - Energy Efficiency Increase of Electrical Local Transport Systems (Download PDF-File)

  • Dominik Looser, Swiss Railways SBB, Switzerland - Data Sources for Simulation Projects (Download PDF-File)

  • Bernhard Seybold, trafIT solutions, Switzerland - railML - in OpenTrack and in other Tools (Download PDF-File)

More reports in German

You’ll find more reports on the use and development of OpenTrack in the German section of our web page.

OpenTrack Videos

The following links require Apple Quicktime Player or Windows Media Player. Otherwise the the videos can be watched on YouTube.

Watch all the OpenTrack-Videos on YouTube.

OpenTrack on LinkedIn

Follow us on LinkedIn:

OpenTrack Railway Technology Ltd. on LinkedIn
OpenTrack - Simulation of Railway Networks on LinkedIn

Further information

For further information on OpenTrack, please contact:

OpenTrack Railway Technology Ltd
Gubelstr. 28
CH - 8050 Zürich

Phone: + 41 - 44 - 310 19 90
Fax: + 41 - 86 - 044 310 19 90
E-Mail: info@opentrack.ch

OpenTrack web site

To the OpenTrack web site.
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