This thesis is about mathematical optimization for the efficient use of railway infrastructure. We address the
optimal allocation of the available railway track capacity - the track allocation problem.
This track allocation problem is a major challenge for a railway company, independent of
whether a free market, a private monopoly, or a public monopoly is given.
Planning and operating railway transportation systems is extremely hard due
to the combinatorial complexity of the underlying discrete optimization problems,
the technical intricacies, and the immense sizes of the problem instances. Mathematical models and optimization
techniques can result in huge gains for both railway customers and operators, e.g.,
in terms of cost reductions or service quality improvements.
We tackle this challenge by developing novel mathematical models and associated innovative algorithmic
solution methods for large scale instances. This allows us to produce for the first time reliable
solutions for a real world instance, i.e., the Simplon corridor in Switzerland.
The opening chapter gives a comprehensive overview on railway planning problems.
This provides insights into the regulatory and technical framework,
it discusses the interaction of several planning steps, and identifies optimization potentials in
railway transportation. The remainder of the thesis is comprised of two major parts.
The first part is concerned with modeling railway systems to allow for resource and capacity analysis.
Railway capacity has basically two dimensions, a space dimension which are the physical
infrastructure elements as well as a time dimension that refers to the train movements, i.e.,
occupation or blocking times, on the physical infrastructure. Railway safety systems operate
on the same principle all over the world. A train has to reserve infrastructure blocks for some time to pass through.
Two trains reserving the same block of the infrastructure within the same point in time is called block conflict.
Therefore, models for railway capacity involve the definition
and calculation of reasonable running and associated reservation and
blocking times to allow for a conflict free allocation.
In the second and main part of the thesis, the optimal track
allocation problem for macroscopic models of the railway system is considered.
The literature for related problems is surveyed.
A graph-theoretic model for the track allocation problem is
developed. In that model optimal track allocations correspond to
conflict-free paths in special time-expanded graphs.
Furthermore, we made considerable progress on solving track allocation problems by two
main features - a novel modeling approach for the macroscopic track
allocation problem and algorithmic improvements based on the
utilization of the bundle method.
Finally, we go back to practice and present in the last chapter several case
studies using the tools netcast and tsopt.
We provide a computational comparison of
our new models and standard packing models used in the literature.
Our computational experience indicates that our approach, i.e.,
``configuration models'', outperforms other models. Moreover, the rapid branching
heuristic and the bundle method enable us to produce high quality solutions for very large scale
instances, which has not been possible before.
In addition, we present results for a theoretical and rather visionary auction framework
for track allocation. We discuss several auction design questions and analyze experiments of
various auction simulations.
The highlights are results for the Simplon corridor in Switzerland.
We optimized the train traffic through this tunnel using our models and
To the best knowledge of the author and confirmed by several railway
practitioners this was the first time that fully automatically produced
track allocations on a macroscopic scale fulfill the requirements
of the originating microscopic model, withstand the evaluation in the
microscopic simulation tool OpenTrack, and exploit the infrastructure capacity.
This documents the success of our approach in practice and the usefulness
and applicability of mathematical optimization to railway track allocation.