2014 Problem Solving Competition – RAS informs


2014 Problem Solving Competition


Applying Advanced Analytics to Railroad Problems for Fun and Prizes!

1st Prize   $2,000

2nd Prize  $1,000

3rd Prize  $750

Plan Railroad Hump Yard Block-to-Track Assignment

Freight transportation by rail has been in existence for more than one-hundred and fifty years. Over time, the volume moved by rail has increased dramatically, and four major railway companies known as Class I Railways have become responsible for moving millions of railcars between thousands of origins and destinations each year. Rail yards are nerve centers in this transportation of merchandise within rail networks. Yard operations mimic the hub operations in the hub-and-spoke networks used by airline companies, LTL providers, and package delivery companies. However, unlike other industries, the railway industry uses a complex network of interconnected tracks which have a very limited capacity for moving railcars between tracks in yards.

Participants are asked to build a model to identify a plan that optimizes the humping sequence and the block-to-track assignment of a railroad classification yard. In this problem, a number of inbound trains arrive in the receiving yard at given times. Each train can be broken into a number of railcar tuples (or blocks) that may go to different destinations. These blocks are sent to tracks in the classification yard according to a planned sequence. Finally, each set of classified blocks are assembled into an outbound train in the departure yard. The goal of an assignment plan is to minimize the average dwell time of freight cars and to maximize the total number of railcars processed in the yard during a certain period. An optimal block-to-track assignment plan can significantly improve the efficiency of yard operations while saving critical resources for a railway company. However, designing a good assignment plan is very challenging as it is subject a number of interdependent constraints due to limited resources (e.g., limited tracks to hold railcars and limited engines to move railcars) and specific classification requirement (e.g., blocks going to the same destination must be moved together).

The criteria that will be used to evaluate a solution include the quality of the solution, the soundness of the solution approach, and the corresponding computational time.

Apart from the cash prizes, the first prize winner’s contribution will also be considered for publication in Networks. The paper still needs to go through the journal’s normal refereeing procedure; however, the paper will receive an expedited refereeing and publication process.


Visit the competition web site for complete problem details: http://www.informs.org/Community/RAS/Problem-Solving-Competition