Models and methods for operational planning in freight railroads
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Railroads are facing increasing demand for freight transportation. Effective planning and scheduling are crucial to improve the utilization of expensive resources (such as crew and track), reduce operational costs, and provide on-time service. This dissertation focuses on problem modeling and solution method development for real planning problems faced by railroads. It consists of three chapters that study two important planning problems in the daily operations of U.S. freight railroads: crew assignment and train movement planning. Chapter 2 proposes an optimization model to decide crew-to-train assignments and deadheads for double-ended crew districts. We develop an effective solution approach, combining optimization and a standalone heuristic, that generates optimal solutions in minutes. The excellent performance of this solution approach makes it well-suited for implementation within a real-time decision support tool for crew dispatchers. Chapter 3 discusses crew repositioning given the uncertainty in trains’ arrival and departure times. We propose models that minimize the expected crew holding, train delay, and deadheading cost, and develop both exact and heuristic solution methods to provide insights for crew planning under train schedule uncertainty. The last chapter studies the movement planning problem for trains traveling in a territory with multiple through tracks (mainlines) and various junctions. We explore a number of heuristic algorithms to obtain good solutions within a reasonable amount of time. The contributions of this dissertation include modeling enhancements, algorithmic development, implementation and computational testing, and validation using real data.