The vehicle routing problem with time windows consists of delivering goods at minimum cost to a set of customers using an unlimited number of capacitated vehicles assigned to a single depot. Each customer must be visited within a prescribed time window. The most recent successful solution methods for this problem are branch-andprice- and-cut algorithms where the column generation subproblem is an elementary shortest path problem with resource constraints (ESPPRC). In this paper, we propose new ideas having the potential to improve such a methodology. First, we develop a tabu search heuristic for the ESPPRC that allows, in most iterations, the generation of negative reduced cost columns in short a computation time. Second, to further accelerate the subproblem solution process, we propose to relax the elementarity requirements for a subset of the nodes. This relaxation yields, however, weaker lower bounds. Third, we introduce a generalization of the k-path inequalities and highlight that these generalized inequalities can, in theory, be stronger than the traditional ones. Finally, combining these ideas with the most recent advances published in the literature, we present a wide variety of computational results on the Solomon’s 100-customer benchmark instances. In particular, we report solving five previously unsolved instances.
Published July 2006 , 36 pages
This cahier was revised in October 2006