This paper derives key equations for the determination of optimal control strategies in an important engineering application. A train travels from one station to the next along a track with continuously varying gradient. The journey must be completed within a given time and it is desirable to minimise fuel consumption. We assume that only certain discrete throttle settings are possible and that each setting determines a constant rate of fuel supply. This assumption is based on the control mechanism for a typical diesel-electric locomotive. For each setting the power developed by the locomotive is directly proportional to the rate of fuel supply. We assume a single level of braking acceleration. For each fixed finite sequence of control settings we show that fuel consumption is minimised only if the settings are changed when certain key equations are satisfied. The strategy determined by these equations is called a strategy of optimal type. We show that the equations can be derived using an intuitive limit procedure applied to corresponding equations obtained by Howlett [9, 10] in the case of a piecewise constant gradient. The equations will also be derived directly by extending the methods used by Howlett. We discuss a basic solution procedure for the key equations and apply the procedure to find a strategy of optimal type in appropriate specific examples.
(Received June 22 1994)
(Revised October 26 1995)
1 Scheduling and Control Group, School of Mathematics, University of South Australia, The Levels, Australia, 5095. Email “firstname.lastname@example.org”