A critical and comparative review of ballasted and slab tracks: Where are we heading?

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Conference Proceeding
Civil-Comp Proceedings, 2014, 104
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© Civil-Comp Press, 2014. High speed rail (HSR) is currently an experienced rail transport system, which has been recognised to deliver real benefits against road and air transportation. This paper highlights the geotechnical problems involved with HSR on ballasted tracks and how slab tracks can overcome these issues. There are many geotechnical issues surrounding the performance of high-speed trains on ballasted railway tracks. A number of noticeable issues include critical velocity effects, track vibration and large settlement due to ballast degradation. In comparison to ballasted tracks, slab tracks reduce the construction height, reduce track maintenance, reduce the wear down of rails, provide better riding comfort at high speeds, provide higher availability, reduce vibration and secondary airborne noises, improve load distribution, provide high lateral and longitudinal track stability and eliminate problems with vegetation control, which is essential for a rail track structure. Accordingly, many railway experts have concluded that it is time to say goodbye to the ballasted tracks. Based on several case studies, laboratory results and validated numerical analysis, this paper clearly elaborates that if ballasted tracks are designed and stabilised properly, they will be cost effective and can well-perform under dynamic loads of high speed rails.
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