4. Characteristics of time tabling systems

Time tables are used whenever something needs to happen at a certain time but with the additional complication that the timing of that event causes as few problems as possible for other things in the same time table.

Example: Allocating working shifts

A manager may need to allocate shifts to a group of employees. Each employee must work a certain amounts of hours and all shift must have the right number of people. Complications such as holidays or planned absence can make the time table task even more awkward

Example: School timetable

This can be a very complicated task because of the number of students, teachers, rooms involved

Complications include

  • Students needs to be able to attend all their courses without those courses clashing in the time table
  • A teacher can only attend to one class at a time
  • A room can only be used by one class at a time
  • All courses must happen between school start and end times

Example: Travel time tables

Time tables are vital for Rail, Bus and Air travel. Once again, the time table needs to deal with the following

  • Arrrival times should ideally give passengers enough time to connect to another popular route for their onward journey. A poor time table would cause arrivals and departures to overlap.
  • Popular journeys should have more trains \ buses \ planes
  • Only one train \ bus \ plane can be at the terminal pick up point at any given time
  • Coping with unforseen delays and breakdowns.


Although the examples given above seems very different. They do share some common characteristics.

  • They must deal with many items in the time table
  • They must deal with many constraints \ limits.
  • They must be as problem-free as possible.


If you are asked in an exam to discuss the characteristics of a travel time table. Your answer should include the following characteristic of the time table system

  • Identifies starting station and terminating stations
  • Allows through-journeys to be planned
  • You can tell the system to include a specific station or to not use a certain station
  • Shows a selection of possible journeys
  • Tells you the next available train \ bus \ flight to your destination
  • Allows for one-way and return journeys
  • Provides exact dates and times of the outward journey including arrive-before times.
  • Provides exact dates and time for the return journey
  • Provides a code to identify each specific flight \ route to be used for the journey
  • Allows you to select the class of the journey - first class, economy etc
  • System provides a search facility
  • Allows you to select a journey by price
  • Print out the time table
  • Allows you to store your most-used journeys to speed up booking it next time
  • Tickets printed online to avoid queuing at the station \ terminal
  • Email confirmation of booking

challenge see if you can find out one extra fact on this topic that we haven't already told you

Click on this link: Time Tabling Systems