PhD Rolf van Lieshout

From 2017-2022 I was the daily supervisor of Rolf van Lieshout.

Trains and railroad tracks in a knot. From the front cover of Rolf's PhD thesis

Together with Dennis Huisman and Marjan van den Akker, I was the daily supervisor of Rolf van Lieshout between 2017 and 2022.

Rolf graduated cum laude on Friday the 13th of May 2022.

His thesis Integration, Decentralization and Self-Organization: Towards Better Public Transport received an honourable mention in the prestigious TSL Dissertation Award competition.

Rolf is currently working as an assistant professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

Thesis Abstract

Public transport brings undisputed benefits to modern-day societies. Aside from providing an affordable means to get around, its supreme efficiency in comparison with private transport plays a crucial role in curbing congestion and pollution, highlighting the importance of adequate design and operation of public transport systems.

The first part of this thesis seeks to improve the planning process of public transport operators by integrating planning steps that are traditionally performed sequentially. The first study considers a combination of line planning and vehicle scheduling, and presents methods that estimate how many vehicles are required to operate a line plan, without having to compute a timetable. The second study combines timetabling and vehicle scheduling, and develops a novel optimization model for jointly optimizing a periodic timetable and vehicle circulation schedule.

The second part of this thesis investigates decentralized strategies for operating public transport, with a focus on railway systems. Such strategies could be preferable over conventional centralized and schedule-based control in various scenarios. The first study in this part presents a theoretical analysis of a simple, decentralized strategy for dispatching vehicles. The second study considers the application of decentralized control to out-of-control situations in railways, which includes the development of a solution algorithm to find line plans that are suited for these circumstances. The final study in this thesis tests decentralized dispatching of both vehicles and crew in a microscopic railway simulation.

Research output

I was co-author of four papers Rolf worked on during his PhD:

Societal Impact

Rolf’s research was featured in the nationwide Dutch newspaper Trouw (article on with a PDF version) (article on, behind a paywall). Trouw won the European Newspaper Award in the nationwide category in 2001 and 2012.