Design of railway transition zones: A novel energy-based criterion

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Railway transition zones (RTZs) experience higher rates of degradation compared to open tracks, which leads to increased maintenance costs and reduced availability. Despite existing literature on railway track assessment and maintenance, effective design solutions for RTZs are still limited. Therefore, a robust design criterion is required to develop effective solutions. This paper presents a two-step approach for the formulation of a preliminary-design criterion to delay the onset of processes leading to uneven track geometry in RTZs. Firstly, a systematic analysis of each track component in a RTZ is performed by examining spatial and temporal variations in kinematic responses, stresses and energies using a finite element model of an embankment-bridge transition. Secondly, the study proposes an energy-based criterion to be assessed using a model with linear elastic material behavior and states that an amplification in the total train energy in the proximity of the transition interface is an indicator of increased (and thus non-uniform) degradation in RTZs compared to the open tracks. The correlation between the total strain energy (assessed in the model with linear material behaviour) and the permanent irreversible deformations is demonstrated using a model with non-linear elastoplastic material behavior of the ballast layer. In the end, it is claimed that minimising the magnitude of total strain energy will lead to reduced degradation and a uniform distribution of total strain energy in each trackbed layer along the longitudinal direction of the track will ensure uniformity in the track geometry.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101223
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Geotechnics
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Railway transition zones
  • Track degradation
  • Finite element model
  • Energy analysis
  • Design criterion
  • Strain energy


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