The European Freight Railway System as a Hub-and-Spoke Network

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - network design, ridership - commuting, economics - profitability, economics - profitability, place - europe, mode - bus, mode - rail


Transit times, Railroad transportation, Rail transportation, Rail freight, Profitability, Optimization, Optimisation, Network design, Mathematical models, Logistics, Hub and spoke systems, Freight transportation, Freight flows, Europe, Costs, Business logistics, Algorithms


This paper addresses a hub-and-spoke network problem for railroad freight, where a central planner is to find transport routes, frequency of service, length of trains to be used, and transportation volume. Hub-and-spoke networks, often found in air freight, have not been favoured by railways in the past. Such a structure could be profitable, however, if there exist concentrated freight flows on some service links. The authors formulate a linear integer programming model whose objective function includes not only the typical operational cost, but also cost due to the transit time spent by freight in the network. The authors then develop heuristic algorithms to solve large scale instances occurring in rail freight systems in France plus Italy; Germany; and a 10-country European network. By assuming that every node is equipped with consolidation capability, the authors let the final solution naturally reveal potential hub locations, the impact of several of which is studied by sensitivity analysis.


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