RAS Problem Solving Competition

The 2022 RAS Problem Solving Competition

Operations Research and Advanced Analytical Approaches Applied to Real-World Rail Problems

First Prize: $2,000  --  Second Prize: $1,000  --  Third Prize: $750


Designing real-time traffic management for an urban rail transit system – London's new Elizabeth line, UK

Full Problem Description
Data Files
07-10-2022 Revised Problem Description (added short-turning locations)
07-10-2022 Revised Data Files (excel)
Evaluation instances
08-26-2022 XML format for solution

As a global rail operator, MTR is working with TrenoLab in the development of a state of the art Decision Support Tool, which will be used in helping build resilience into London’s new railway – the Elizabeth line.

The Elizabeth line (formally known as Crossrail) will stretch more than 60 miles from Reading and Heathrow in the west through central tunnels across to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will ultimately provide a seamless transit service between the East and West parts of the British capital city, with several connections to the railway and underground networks, as well as with the Heathrow international airport.

At the full planned regime, more than 1000 daily trains will be operated by the Train Operating Company (TOC) MTR Elizabeth line on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), resulting in very short times between consecutive trains in the same direction. On a such densely used system, even minor disturbances, especially during peak hours, could result in major implications on the planned timetable and rapid delay spread and potential service cancellations.

Timetable disruptions ultimately result in a loss of service quality for passengers, for which the TOC will have to pay an economic fee. To maintain a given level of service, the TOC can perform an active dispatching of the traffic, resulting in a set of timetable amendments. Possible amendments could be train retiming, choosing a different platform, skipping a stop, cancelling a service. An effective amendment set is that which involves a total penalty (computed on the amended timetable) to be less than the penalty to be paid in case of no amendments are applied. Finally, amendments must be designed in such a way that they ensure a feasible rolling stock circulation, possibly resorting to calls for available reserve units in depots.

The aim of this competition is to develop a method to compute the optimal sets of amendments for a given set of timetable disruption scenarios using a Decision Support Tool. A disruption can be caused by disturbances of traffic as well as speed reductions on railway track. The full problem description can be found here.

Your participation in the competition will help make the Decision Support Tool as reliable as possible for future timetable evaluations.

Evaluation Criteria:

The criteria that judges will use to evaluate a solution include the following:

  • Quality of the proposed solution. See Section 7 in the full problem description for more details.
  • Computational time of the proposed solution approach.
  • The quality of the paper describing the solution approach. How clear is the explanation? Is it possible to reproduce the approach just by reading the paper?
  • Submissions must comply with the specified format for solution files. See Section 7 in the full problem description for more details.
  • Clarity of final presentation (in video format)

The finalists will provide a video presentation one week prior to the 2022 INFORMS Annual Meeting that will be used by the judges (along with the paper and provided solution).  At the 2022 INFORMS meeting we will have a presentation by the finalists.  We encourage in-person attendance, but recognize that due to worldwide travel restrictions this may not be possible and for those cases a short video will be required.  We will also ask the finalists to be (virtually) available for questions from the audience.


First Prize:          $2,000

Second Prize:     $1,000

Third Prize:        $750


In addition to the cash prizes, the first prize winners’ contribution to this competition will also be considered for publication in the journal Networks. The paper still needs to go through the journal’s refereeing process; however, it will receive an expedited refereeing and publication process.



Practitioners of operations research and management science who are interested in solving problems in the railroad domain using Operations Research and Analytics tools are welcome to participate. Registration is open to all with the exception of RAS officers and organizing committee members. Likewise, members of the organizing committee may NOT help nor guide any participating team.

Teams of up to five members can participate. At least one member of each finalist team must be available in-person or virtually for questions/answers at the 2022 INFORMS Annual Meeting. Winners will be announced after the session.



Participation in the RAS Problem Solving Competition requires registration by July 1st, 2022. Every team must register by the due date to participate in the contest. To register, please send the following information to railwayapplicationssection@gmail.com by the deadline.

  • For each team member: Name, Email, Organization, Position.
  • Brief statement describing what motivated you to participate.

After submitting your registration email, you will receive an email confirming your team’s successful registration and eligibility, and you will be added to the competition’s channel in Slack.



Can I publish?

Yes, you can. In fact, RAS encourages you to do so. Anyone can use the RAS competition problem and provided datasets in their publication. References to year-specific problem competitions are given in the URL, and as such you can reference the year-specific competition URL which will not be changed.


Important dates:

Release of Full Problem and Training Datasets: April 7th, 2022

Registration Deadline: July 1st, 2022

Q&A Period: Open from May 1st, 2022 until the submission deadline. Participants will be added to the competition’s channel in Slack.

Release of Evaluation Problem Instances: June 1st, 2022

Solution Submission Deadline (Paper + Results): August 25th, 2022 September 9, 2022. Please refer to Section 7 in the full problem description for more details on the required format for solution files. Submissions must be sent to railwayapplicationssection@gmail.com

Announcement of Finalists: September 15th, 2022

Release of Additional Test Dataset (Distributed only to finalists): September 16th, 2022

Submission of results for the Additional Test Dataset: September 25th, 2022

Submission of presentation (video) prepared by finalists: October 2nd, 2022

Interviews with finalist: Week starting October 3rd, 2022

RAS presentation at the 2022 INFORMS Annual Conference.  In-person will be preferred.  If not in-person, then a 15-minute video will be required, as well has having at least one person from each finalist team be available for questions and answers: October 16-19, 2022

Winners Announced: October 16-19, 2022, at INFORMS Annual Conference (During the RAS Business Meeting).



Good luck in the competition!


Competition Chairs: Marc Meketon (Oliver Wyman) and Nicola Coviello (TrenoLab)

Problem Owner: Giorgio Medeossi (TrenoLab)