Annals of Operations Research

, Volume 253, Issue 2, pp 773–798 | Cite as

A path-based capacitated network flow model for empty railcar distribution

  • Ruhollah HeydariEmail author
  • Emanuel Melachrinoudis


In this paper we develop a novel formulation for the empty railcar distribution problem that considers realistic technical and business requirements while assigning empty cars to customer demands. The proposed model takes block and train capacities into account, while satisfying the supply and demand constraints, and allows car substitutability among pools of the same car type as well as customer preferences towards different pools. Following the practice in US railroads, the proposed model does not combine car routing and car distribution decisions. Those two decisions are separated from each other and they are usually made by different departments in US railroads. The model is implemented in CPLEX Concert Technology using Java and is illustrated in a numerical example. Results show that the proposed model can improve several performance measures over the noncapacitated model which is currently used by industry.


Empty railcar distribution Railroad optimization Transportation planning Rail network 



The authors would like to thank Colombo from Universita degli Studi di Milano, Italia (Team OR at UNIMI) for providing us with their 2011 RAS competition results.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Ruhollah Heydari and Emanuel Melachrinoudis state that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, 334 Snell Engineering CenterNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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