# Traveling Salesman Problem: How to avoid symmetry?

I solved a Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) by the cutting plane method, i.e. adding violated sub-tour constraints until the LP relaxation is a tour. Now, I am realizing that, in this symmetric TSP, driving route $$1 \to 2 \to 3 \to 4$$ is identical to driving $$4 \to 3 \to 2 \to 1$$.

I am wondering how I can add another constraint so that the symmetry is avoided. It should work by defining $$x_{ij}$$ variables only if $$i < j$$. However, I do not know how I can adapt my code to make it work.

Here is my python code:

# Load libraries
from itertools import product
from networkx import minimum_cut, DiGraph
from mip import Model, xsum, BINARY, OptimizationStatus, CutType

# This is the distance matrix
#
#          1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8       9       10
# 1        0       3       7       7       5       4       6       9       2       3
# 2        3       0       10      3       2       9       10      6       8       4
# 3        7       10      0       6       6       4       1       5       1       3
# 4        7       3       6       0       9       8       3       4       4       10
# 5        5       2       6       9       0       2       5       1       10      4
# 6        4       9       4       8       2       0       4       3       5       2
# 7        6       10      1       3       5       4       0       6       5       2
# 8        9       6       5       4       1       3       6       0       8       8
# 9        2       8       1       4       10      5       5       8       0       6
# 10       3       4       3       10      4       2       2       8       6       0
# ;

# List of locations
L = [x + 1 for x in range(10)]

# Set up distances between locations in a dictionary that uniquely identifies the nodes by a tuple
D = {
(1, 2): 3, (1, 3): 7, (1, 4): 7, (1, 5): 5, (1, 6): 4, (1, 7): 6, (1, 8): 9, (1, 9): 2, (1, 10): 3,
(2, 1): 3, (2, 3): 10, (2, 4): 3, (2, 5): 2, (2, 6): 9, (2, 7): 10, (2, 8): 6, (2, 9): 8, (2,10): 4,
(3, 1): 7, (3, 2): 10, (3, 4): 6, (3, 5): 6, (3, 6): 4, (3, 7): 1, (3, 8): 5, (3, 9): 1, (3, 10): 3,
(4, 1): 7, (4, 2): 3, (4, 3): 6, (4, 5): 9, (4, 6): 8, (4, 7): 3, (4, 8): 4, (4, 9): 4, (4, 10): 10,
(5, 1): 5, (5, 2): 2, (5, 3): 6, (5, 4): 9, (5, 6): 2, (5, 7): 5, (5, 8): 1, (5, 9): 10, (5, 10): 4,
(6, 1): 4, (6, 2): 9, (6, 3): 4, (6, 4): 8, (6, 5): 2, (6, 7): 4, (6, 8): 3, (6, 9): 5, (6, 10): 2,
(7, 1): 6, (7, 2): 10, (7, 3): 1, (7, 4): 3, (7, 5): 5, (7, 6): 4, (7, 8): 6, (7, 9): 5, (7, 10): 2,
(8, 1): 9, (8, 2): 6, (8, 3): 5, (8, 4): 4, (8, 5): 1, (8, 6): 3, (8, 7): 6, (8, 9): 8, (8, 10): 8,
(9, 1): 2, (9, 2): 8, (9, 3): 1, (9, 4): 4, (9, 5): 10, (9, 6): 5, (9, 7): 5, (9, 8):8, (9, 10): 6,
(10, 1): 3, (10, 2): 4, (10, 3): 3, (10, 4): 10, (10, 5): 4, (10, 6): 2, (10, 7): 2, (10, 8): 8, (10, 9): 6,
}

# Define movements from i to j and from j to i
Dout = {l: [d for d in D if d == l] for l in L}
Din = {l: [d for d in D if d == l] for l in L}

model = Model()
x = {d: model.add_var(name=f'x({d},{d})', var_type=BINARY) for d in D}

model.objective = xsum(d * x[l] for l, d in D.items())

# Add constraints: we want to leave and enter each location only once
for l in L:
model += xsum(x[l] for l in Dout[l]) == 1, f'out({l})'
model += xsum(x[l] for l in Din[l]) == 1, f'in({l})'

# Solve the relaxed model (without subtour elimination)
model.optimize(relax=True)

# Yields the same solution as GAMS :) {VW}
relaxed_solution = {y: x[y].x for y in x if x[y].x != 0}

# Solve TSP by the cutting plane method
violated_inequalities = True
while violated_inequalities:
model.optimize(relax=True)
# print("status: {} objective value : {}".format(m.status, m.objective_value))

# Base class for directed graphs. A DiGraph stores nodes and edges with data.
# Edges of the graph G are expected to have an attribute capacity that indicates how much flow the edge can support.
G = DiGraph()
for d in D:

# Separation routine:
# Choose an arbitrary location 𝑖 ∈ {1, ... , 𝑛}
# Solve a maximum flow problem from 𝑖 to each location 𝑘 ∈ {1, ... , 𝑛}\{𝑖} with edge capacities 𝑥ҧ𝑖𝑗
# If the optimal objective value of one of these maximum flow problems is < 1, a subtour constraint is violated.
# The set 𝑆 of the violated subtour constraint is one half of the corresponding minimum cut.
# A cut divides the node set into two disjoint sets 𝑆 and 𝑇.
# The cut’s capacity is the sum of capacities of all edges between 𝑆 and 𝑇.
violated_inequalities = False
for (n1, n2) in [(i, j) for (i, j) in product(L, L) if i != j]:
# The capacity of a minimum capacity cut is equal to the flow value of a maximum flow.
cut_capacity, (S, T) = minimum_cut(G, n1, n2)
if cut_capacity < 1:
model += (xsum(x[l] for l in D if (l in S and l in S)) <= len(S) - 1)
violated_inequalities = True

final_solution = {y: x[y].x for y in x if x[y].x != 0}

# The tour is complete
final_solution

• Not really an answer, but a super simple approach that requires almost no code change: find the tours simultaneously by requiring x[i,j] == x[j,i] for i != j. Oct 7, 2021 at 8:46

For asymmetric TSP, you can use a directed graph, with variables $$x_{i,j}$$ for $$i \not= j$$, and the flow balance constraints are: \begin{align} \sum_{j \not= i} x_{i,j} &= 1 &&\text{for all i} \\ \sum_{j \not= i} x_{j,i} &= 1 &&\text{for all i} \\ \end{align}

For symmetric TSP, you should use an undirected graph, with variables $$x_{i,j}$$ for $$i < j$$, and the flow balance constraints are replaced with two-matching constraints: \begin{align} \sum_{j > i} x_{i,j} + \sum_{j < i} x_{j,i} &= 2 &&\text{for all i} \\ \end{align}

• This should be the accepted answer. There is no reason to introduce redundant variables and symmetry breaking constraints if this can simply be avoided. The trick in the comment by @Daniel Junglas probably has the same result, as the presolver probably is able to remove all duplicate variables. Oct 8, 2021 at 0:06
• The two-matching formulation is actually stronger because it implicitly eliminates 2-cycles. Oct 8, 2021 at 0:52
• @RobPratt, thanks for your useful answer. Would you say please, is it possible to use MTZ sec in the sTDP instead of DFJ? If so, how we can model it in the right way? (Regards 👍) Oct 8, 2021 at 12:23
• @A.Omidi The MTZ formulation uses a directed graph, even if the costs are symmetric, and I don’t know any way around that. Oct 8, 2021 at 12:30

So you are dealing with a configuration where for any path $$A-B-...-Z$$, the reverse path $$Z-...-B-A$$ is also valid.

To break this symmetry, you can impose that the index of node $$A$$ must be smaller than the index of node $$Z$$:

$$x_{i0} \le \sum_{j| j\le i}x_{0j}\quad \forall i$$

This way, if arc $$(i,0)$$ enters the depot, then there must be a lower indexed arc $$(0,j)$$ with $$j\le i$$ which exits the depot.

It should work by defining $$x_{ij}$$ variables only if $$i.

This is too restrictive if you are working with a directed graph. Consider for example an optimal path $$1-3-2$$. You need variable $$x_{32}$$. And for the reverse path, you would need variable $$x_{31}$$.

Based off on what Daniel commented:

• select all the edges used in any vehicle's tour that are asymmetrical
• group them by vehicle, collecting the count of the number of asymetrical edges in that vehicle's tour
• add a hard constraint that there must be at least one (=> penalize if count is zero)

Alternatives:

1. Make it a soft constraint: Add a soft constraint to reward that count, by the count multiplied by a certain distance weight
2. The asymmetrical distance difference matters: Don't collect the count, but abs() value of the asymmetrical distance difference and collect that sum. Then reward the minimum sum across all vehicles.
3. The number for all tours matters: Like 2), but apply a load-balancing technique, so the 2th minimum sum etc are reward too, but less significantly than the minimum. Usually that can be done by squaring that sum per vehicle and then summing the squares across vehicles. But that would favor the max, so you 'll need to invert the sums first.