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Freight Transport by Rail

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Part of the International Series in Operations Research & Management Science book series (ISOR,volume 212)


The train design problem (also called "block-to-train assignment problem") is a difficult combinatorial optimization problem encountered daily in the freight railroad industry. In 2011, the Railway Applications Society (RAS) of the professional society INFORMS had set up a competition problem of this based on a simplified real-life instance, which is the basis for this chapter. In this chapter we discuss this problem, and develop an algorithm for it based on the minimum cost spanning tree approach, and the solution of the RAS 2011 contest problem using it.


  • Destination Node
  • Greedy Algorithm
  • Column Generation
  • Master Problem
  • Work Event

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1007-6_16
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Fig. 16.1
Fig. 16.2


  1. 1.

    As described the following section, in the given data set, the ratio of weight to length of a block of rail-cars is constant for all blocks and it is equal to 4/3. Therefore, the eligible blocks can be rank-ordered either on the basis of weight or length.

  2. 2.

    Code::Blocks is an open source and a full-featured cross-platform IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Weblink:

  3. 3.

    The interested practitioners and researchers may contact the author Omkar D. Palsule-Desai at to receive the software code developed for the greedy algorithm proposed in this chapter.


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Correspondence to Katta G. Murty .

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Murty, K.G., Nag, B., Palsule-Desai, O.D. (2015). Freight Transport by Rail. In: Murty, K. (eds) Case Studies in Operations Research. International Series in Operations Research & Management Science, vol 212. Springer, New York, NY.

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