, Volume 143, Issue 1-2, pp 257-297
Date: 30 Oct 2012

Dynamic graph generation for the shortest path problem in time expanded networks

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In discrete optimization problems the progress of objects over time is frequently modeled by shortest path problems in time expanded networks, but longer time spans or finer time discretizations quickly lead to problem sizes that are intractable in practice. In convex relaxations the arising shortest paths often lie in a narrow corridor inside these networks. Motivated by this observation, we develop a general dynamic graph generation framework in order to control the networks’ sizes even for infinite time horizons. It can be applied whenever objects need to be routed through a traffic or production network with coupling capacity constraints and with a preference for early paths. Without sacrificing any information compared to the full model, it includes a few additional time steps on top of the latest arcs currently in use. This “frontier” of the graphs can be extended automatically as required by solution processes such as column generation or Lagrangian relaxation. The corresponding algorithm is efficiently implementable and linear in the arcs of the non-time-expanded network with a factor depending on the basic time offsets of these arcs. We give some bounds on the required additional size in important special cases and illustrate the benefits of this technique on real world instances of a large scale train timetabling problem.

This work was supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung under grant 03HEPAG4. Responsibility for the content rests with the authors.