PhD Position on Railway Scheduling (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Uren per week: 
38 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Bètawetenschappen
Department of Information and Computing Sciences
Uiterlijk reageren op: 


In this PhD position you will join the Department of Information and Computer Science of Utrecht University in the LTP Robust Rail Project on Responsible Decision Support for Efficient and Dynamic Railway Systems. This project is a collaboration between Utrecht University, NS (Dutch Railways, the main Dutch passenger rail operator), ProRail (the Dutch rail infra manager) and TU Delft. The main goal is to improve the planning of Railway hubs, consisting of station areas and service sites. As you will work on real-life research questions with high societal impact your results might actually be implemented in practice to improve public transport.

During your PhD you will mainly focus on research, for which you will have a large amount of freedom to select the topics that you like within the project. Next to your research project you will coach students, complete a personalised set of courses, and develop technical and conceptual skills. During the PhD you will learn to present, advertise your work, and communicate with media. Supplementary to your research, you have educational tasks. These tasks include co-supervision of BSc and MSc-students, supervision of practicals and lectures. Your supervisors will coach you on education such that your development on this aspect is fueled as much as possible.

Within the project, multiple subjects are at hand. When rolling stock is not needed, for example at night, then it is brought to service sites. Here the trains are parked and service tasks (cleaning, inspection, maintenance) are conducted. Service sites are dynamic environments in which many disturbances take place with respect to the arrival of the trains (delays, differences in composition) and the service work. Your challenge in this project is to deal with this by designing algorithms that can construct shunting plans that are resilient against small changes in the original input and that can repair an initial plan with a minimum number of changes. Similar plans should be produced in similar circumstances to increase the acceptance of the algorithms by human planners. Therefore, we aim to construct plans that serve as a blueprint for one of the `standard’ days, which are easily adjustable to accommodate for small changes. Finding such easily adjustable base plans is a further challenge. Furthermore, we want to extend the usage of these algorithms to deal with similar challenges that play a role in freight train planning in the Rotterdam harbour area. Finally, the train traffic on a hub interferes with (freight) traffic on the main lines, which requires synchronisation.

You will be part of the RAIL lab, which is one of the seventeen new ICAI labs. The RAIL lab consists of five PhD candidates, who collaborate on ensuring safe and reliable logistic operations and capacity planning that is trusted by human experts.

This lab is part of the 10-year LTP ROBUST programme “Trustworthy AI-based Systems for Sustainable Growth” consortium, which unites seventeen knowledge institutions, nineteen participating industry sponsors and fifteen civil-social organisations from across the Netherlands. You will gain valuable experience working with an industry partner, and will be able to tap into a wealth of networking, career development, and training opportunities in conjunction with ICAI, the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam.


You are a team player with a strong motivation to pursue a PhD-degree. Next to that we would like you to bring:

  • a Msc-degree in Computer Science, Mathematics, or a related field;
  • strong programming skills;
  • prior experience with Optimization techniques;
  • a strong interest in applied research;
  • good communication and collaboration skills;
  • good English academic writing and presentation skills;
  • because of cooperation with NS and ProRail, proficiency in Dutch is a clear advantage.

If your profile does not completely meet the above criteria, but you are interested and enthusiastic about this project, we would still like to hear from you.


  • We offer a personalized development program and extensive lab facilities including support. During your PhD you are ensured of the continuous support of NS and ProRail.;
  • A position for 5 years;
  • A full-time gross salary ranging from € 2541,- to € 3247,- in scale P;
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.
For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science
Are you an international applicant? Find out more about what our International Service desk does and for more info about the what and how on living in the Netherlands.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.
At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Aanvullende informatie

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Han Hoogeveen ( or Dr. Ir. Marjan van den Akker (

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to

Are you an international applicant? Our International Service Desk can answer your questions about living in the Netherlands as international staff.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation, via the ‘apply now’ button. Please also include:

  • scans of Bachelor's and/or Master's transcripts (incl. grade list), with a certified translation in English if the degree qualification is not in Dutch or English;
  • your Bachelor's and Master's theses.

It is possible that we will ask you for references later.

If you are within a few months from the completion of your Master's degree, we also welcome you to apply! In that case, please enclose a letter from your Master's thesis supervisor indicating when you are likely to graduate. We are flexible with respect to the starting date.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

Uiterlijk reageren op 19 juni 2023.