Spaghetti Optimization

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How Italian Commuters Discovered Operations Research

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Last week, more then 700,000 Italian commuters discovered the importance of Operations Research (OR). Nobody explicitly mentioned OR, but due to a horrible crew schedule of Trenord (a train operator with around 330 trains and 2700 employees), the commuters had a long, long, long nightmare. During the whole week, several trains were cancelled (1375 in total) and most of the trains were delayed. A newspaper wrote that a commuter waiting to go home had the painful record of 11 consecutive trains cancelled. The Italian online edition of Wired has an article about this horrible week. If you want to get an idea of the chaos you can search for “caos tilt software trenord” on

Trenord officially said that the software that planned the crew schedule is faulty. The software was bought last year from Goal Systems, a Spanish company. Rumors say that Trenord paid the Goal System around 1,500,000 Euro. Likely, the system is not faulty, but it “only” had bad input data.

What newspapers do not write

Before the Goal System, Trenord was using a different software, produced by Management Artificial Intelligence Operations Research srl (MAIOR) that is used by several public transportation companies in Italy, included ATM that operates the subway and buses in Milan. In addition, MAIOR collaborates with the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Pisa to improve continuously its software. Honestly, I am biased, since I collaborate with MAIOR. However, Trenord dismissed the software of MAOIR without any specific complaint, since the management had decided to buy the Goal System software.

Newspapers do not ask the following question:

Why to change a piece of software, if the previous one was working correctly?

In Italy, soccer players have a motto: “squadra che vince non si cambia”. Maybe at Trenord nobody plays soccer.

MAIOR is back

Likely, next week will be better for the 700,000 commuters, since OR experts from MAIOR are traveling to Milan to help Trenord to improve the situation.

Disclaimer (post edited on 18th December 2012)

  1. I am a Pavia-Milano commuter disappointed of the chaotic week we had.
  2. The information reported in this post were obtained with searches on and published on Italian online magazines.
  3. Surely, the Goal System is a piece of software as good as MAIOR software is.
  4. This post does not intend to offend anyone.