Determining Capacity of Shunting Yards by Combining Graph Classification with Local Search

Arno van de Ven*, Yingqian Zhang, Wan-Jui Lee, Rik Eshuis, Anna Wilbik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


Dutch Railways (NS) uses a shunt plan simulator to determine capacities of shunting yards. Central to this simulator is a local search heuristic. Solving this capacity determination problem is very time consuming, as it requires to solve an NP-hard shunting planning problem, and furthermore, the capacity has to determined for a large number of possible scenarios at over 30 shunting yards in The Netherlands. In this paper, we propose to combine machine learning with local search in order to speed up finding shunting plans in the capacity determination problem. The local search heuristic models the activities that take place on the shunting yard as nodes in an activity graph with precedence relations. Consequently, we apply the Deep Graph Convolutional Neural Network, which is a graph classification method, to predict whether local search will find a feasible shunt plan given an initial solution. Our experimental results show our approach can significantly reduce the simulation time in determining the capacity of a given shunting yard. This study demonstrates how machine learning can be used to boost optimization algorithms in an industrial application.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Agents and Artificial Intelligence - Volume 2 - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 19 Feb 201921 Feb 2019


ConferenceProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Agents and Artificial Intelligence - Volume 2
Abbreviated titleICAART
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic


  • Classification
  • Convolutional Neural Networks
  • Local Search
  • Machine Learning
  • Planning and Scheduling

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