Scheduling of shunting operations in freight rail hub

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Associate Professor Paul Corry
Acting Head of School
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Rail yards serving as freight hubs typically reside at the intersection of several rail corridors. Many large rail networks operate like a hub and spoke system, where the rail hub receives trains and separates them into several rakes (blocks of wagons). Each rake may have a different destination, but all wagons within a rake have a common destination.

Rakes received from various trains, but with a common destination, are later assembled into a single train prior to its departure. Shunting locomotives are used for the assembly and disassembly operations and there can be holding tracks for short-term storage of rakes prior to assembly.

Arrival and departure times of trains are timetabled and it is a challenging planning exercise to ensure that disassembly/assembly operations in a rail yard causes no delays to the departure of mainline services.

This project aims to formulate this scheduling problem mathematically, determine the computational limits of exact solution techniques and explore the application of approximate solution techniques.

Research activities

As part of the project, we will be expecting you to do the following:

  • review literature on the topic and identify gaps
  • develop real-world case-studies
  • develop mathematical models and algorithms to find near-optimal solutions
  • perform computational analyses
  • write academic publications related to the research.


We expect the project to result in a thesis and/or academic publications in Q1 Journals.

Skills and experience

We expect you to have experience with mixed-integer programming (MIP) and commercial solvers such as CPLEX, Gurobi or GAMS.

We also need you to have good programming skills in a language such as C#, C++, Java or Python.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.