Rail Planning Conference

INFORMS Freight Rail Planning & Operations Conference

May 8-9, 2023
BNSF Headquarters
Leadership Training and Conference Center
2400 Western Center Blvd
Organized by the Railway Applications Section (RAS) of the
Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS)

Hosted by BNSF


The goal of the conference is to provide a forum for individuals in the area of the railway planning at a strategic, operational, and tactical level, as well as those designing and maintaining operations support systems, to share current practices, their views on best practices and their expectations for the future evolution of these practices and systems. This is intended to be an approachable, “no equations” conference focused on managerial practices, and the outcomes and high-level methodologies of any technologies being applied. We have already secured an exciting and informative line-up of speakers (see below).


Download full program here.

Who should attend

Individuals interested in the areas of service design, capital planning (physical plant, rolling stock, labor), operational control functions and related technology support functions. This includes planning, IT, operations research, and data analysis professionals within the rail industry, and the outside firms and universities that collaborate with these professionals. This also extends to professionals that support the execution of the operating plan, such as individuals designing and supporting the blocking, train scheduling, trip planning, car movement, crew management, and locomotive management systems, as well as the individuals representing plan adherence and monitoring functions and activities such as unit train scheduling.


  • Meeting location: BNSF Leadership Training and Conference Center, 2400 Western Center Blvd, Fort Worth, Texas 76131
  • Conference Hotel: Omni Fort Worth Hotel, 1300 Houston St, Fort Worth, TX 76102; we have secured a limited number of rooms at a rate of $199/night.
  • Shuttle service between the conference hotel and the BNSF Leadership Training and Conference Center will be provided at no extra cost for those staying at the Omni Hotel.
  • Conference dinner on Monday, May 8 starts at 7pm and it will be at Bob’s Steak & Chop House, located in Omni Fort Worth Hotel (included in registration fee.)
  • Registration fee includes lunches, coffee breaks, and dinner on Monday (optional Sunday evening dinner to be paid for separately)


(ends April 16, 2023)

Regular fee







Speaker Line-up:

Confirmed speakers/sessions are as follows:

Keynote Speakers

Jon Gabriel, Vice President – Network Strategy, Service Design & Innovation, BNSF Railway

Transforming the Supply Chain Landscape through Innovation

Adriene Bailey, Partner – Transportation Practice, Oliver Wyman

The Growth Journey: Rounding the First Bend

Panel Sessions

Each panel will include representatives from at least 3 Class I railroads. Each panelist will give a brief overview of their current planning practices, to be followed by a guided interactive discussion lead by the program chair. Members of the audience active in the areas covered by each panel will be welcomed to provide additional insight into their approaches to the issues under discussion. Only fully confirmed speakers are listed below - we are in active discussions to pin down the details for additional speakers.

Panel 1: Current service design organizational structure and practices

This panel will focus on each railroad’s current service design process, including planning of manifest, unit, and intermodal services.  It will attempt to cover the process from plan inception through to execution monitoring and control.

Doug Jones, AVP Bulk Operations, BNSF Railway

BNSF Network Strategy overview

Mike Bradley, Senior Director Network Optimization, Norfolk Southern

Evolution of service design strategy at Norfolk Southern

Mike Swain, Manager of Freight Car Systems-Service Planning, CSX

Organization of Service Planning at CSX

Simon Hjelm, General Director of Transportation Planning and Scheduling - Northern Region, Union Pacific

Network Planning & Operations: Organizational Structure, Philosophy and Network Planning Process

Panel 2: Current network and resource planning practices

This panel will focus on each railroad’s current planning processes for investment in the physical plant (yards, sidings, signaling, etc.), railcars, locomotives, and human resources (crews, field operations management and support).  Cross-linkages to the service design process will also be explored.

Frank Anderson, AVP Network Development, BNSF Railway

Current network and resource planning practices

Stefano Rieppi, AVP Fleet and Capacity Planning, and Clark Cheng, Senior Director Operations Research, Norfolk Southern

Integration of forecast, plan, and resource planning processes at Norfolk Southern

Greg Hartley, Director Asset Planning and Quality, Canadian National 

Infrastructure Planning: Experiences and Incremental Improvement

Alexander Lovett, Manager Fleet Strategy, Union Pacific 

Resource Planning at Union Pacific

Panel 3: Trends in software systems for planning and operations execution support

Railroads collectively invest many millions in maintaining and improving their systems for planning and execution support. Over the past decade we have seen a variety of systems development efforts including the renewing/replacement of legacy trip planning/blocking/train management systems, development of movement planners, new yard systems, locomotive and railcar management systems, forecasting systems, etc. This panel will highlight selected examples of such systems investments and explore the lessons learned and future directions for such efforts.

Brian Faz, AVP Technology Services, and Stephanie Saylor, General Director Technology Services, BNSF Railway

Technology trends in support of service design and operations/resource management

Clark Cheng, Senior Director Operations Research & Stefano Rieppi, AVP Equipment, Fleet and Capacity Planning, Norfolk Southern

Resource and Capacity Planning Tools at Norfolk Southern

Shantih Spanton, Lead Senior Scientist Operations Research & Mike Swain, Manager of Freight Car Systems-Service Planning, CSX

Technology and Operations Research Models for CSX Service Planning

James Owens, Senior Systems Engineer, Union Pacific

Technology Initiatives at Union Pacific

Topical Presentations (all in-person, unless otherwise indicated)

Jonatan Gjerdrum, Head of Network Design and Analytics, Green Cargo (remote)

The Swedish experience operating a fully reserved, capacity managed wagonload freight rail network

Yury Gorbonov, Director, Surface Transportation Practice, Oliver Wyman

Introducing the new Web-enabled MultiRail Enterprise for railway service design and network analysis

Ravi Ahuja, Founder/CEO, Optym Rail

Solutions for the management of mine to port railways

Daril Vilhena, Co-CEO, Cedar AI

Maximizing the productivity of rail yards through performance focused systems

C. Tyler Dick, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Modeling the Network Effects of Yard Congestion and Disruptions

Brandi Wood, Product Manager - Movement Planner/Service Design, Wabtec & Stefano Rieppi, AVP Fleet and Capacity Planning, Norfolk Southern

Line of road simulation at NS using Wabtec Service Design (Schedule Viewer)

Henning Preis, Jan Eisold, Uwe Höppner & Nikola Besinovic, Faculty, Technical University of Dresden

Decision Support for Optimal Resource Scheduling in Classification Yards

Giorgio Medeossi, Technical Director, TrenoLab

Strategic timetabling concepts and enabling technologies: a practical case study

Conference Sponsors:

A special thanks to our conference sponsors, who through their support have allowed us to keep registration fees low, and ensure broad-based participation.

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

RAS Sponsors:

The on-going financial support by our RAS sponsors has allowed our many programs to continue over the years, including the problem-solving competition, the student paper award, poster competition, and our new conference participation scholarship.

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors

Stay tuned for further announcements for details on program. If you have questions, please contact one of the following members of the organizing committee: Carl Van Dyke (TransNetOpt, carl@cvdzone.com) or Andrea Arias (BNSF, Andrea.AriasLlorenty@bnsf.com).

Organizing Committee:

Carl Van Dyke, TransNetOpt
Andrea Arias, BNSF
Tyler Dick, University of Texas at Austin
Shantih Spanton, CSX
Marc Meketon, Oliver Wyman
Dharma Acharya, Wabtec
Clark Cheng, Norfolk Southern
Nikola Besinovic, TU Dresden
Roger Baugher, Independent Consultant
Stefano Rieppi, Norfolk Southern