Published On: 7.22.2013 Charlotte, NC

The Train Dispatching Problem And Railroad Negligence

On behalf of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates


Most train movements are controlled by human operators, known as “dispatchers.” Train dispatchers are the air traffic controllers of the railroads. They control the routing movement of trains over large track territories. They establish routes and precedence between trains in real-time in order to cope with normal operations, but also to recover from deviations from the timetable, and minimize overall delays. Implicitly, they tackle and solve repeatedly a hard optimization problem, the “Train Dispatching Problem.”

The “Train Dispatching Problem,” is that trains must share a limited number of tracks. In some cases, a single track must be shared by trains going in opposite directions. It is the job of the dispatcher to control the movement of trains over this limited resource, which can create one bottleneck after another, or worse, collisions and/or derailments. Moreover, the failure of a dispatcher to control the movement of trains through street crossings can result in deadly collisions that could have been avoided.

When the “Train Dispatching Problem” is handled improperly, the consequences of such failure(s) can be devastating. Railroad workers, innocent by-standers, and property, among others, can suffer serious damages as a result of such error. Most likely, error was caused by an engineer or conductor’s negligence, or the ineffectiveness of the railroad’s safety system.

Other examples of the incidents related to the Train Dispatching Problem are display the negligence of the railroad. According to the Wall Street Journal’s recent analysis of data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, the most common cause of train accidents in the U.S. last year involved switching maneuvers, such as connecting or disconnecting the railcars that form a train. And, within the last ten years, 1,330, of freight-train accidents, alone, have been caused by braking failures. These accidents were probably foreseeable consequences of the railroad’s failure to maintain the switching connectors and brakes in their proper condition.

Railroad accidents must always be handled with immediate attention, especially for accidents that could have resulted in a communication error by a dispatcher. It is of utmost important to anyone who has been injured as a result of a train accident to have all evidence identified and preserved before spoliation. Accordingly, seek out the help of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates as soon as you, your loved one, or a friend has been injured as a result of a train accident.


“Track Formulation for the Train Dispatching Problem,” by Leonardo Lamorgese and Carlo Mannino. Applied Mathematics, INTEF ICT, Oslo, Norway.

“Brake-Related Failures Dog Freight Railroads.” Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2013.