Dynamic amplifications in railway transition zones: performance evaluation of sleeper configurations using energy criterion

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Railway transition zones present a major challenge in railway track design mainly due to abrupt jumps in stiffness and differential settlements that result from crossing stiffer structures such as bridges or culverts. Despite numerous efforts to mitigate these transition effects at both the superstructure and substructure levels, a comprehensive solution remains elusive. Substructure-level interventions have demonstrated some effectiveness but are often cost-prohibitive and challenging to implement in existing operational railway transition zones. In contrast, mitigation measures at the superstructure (rail, sleepers, rail-pads, under-sleeper pads) level can be easily installed but have shown limited improvement in site measurements. This study evaluates the influence of different sleeper configurations in transition zones and reduced sleeper spacings on the operation-driven dynamic amplifications in railway transition zones, employing a recently proposed criterion based on the total strain energy in the track-bed layers (ballast, embankment, and subgrade). In addition to this, the influence of the loss of contact between sleepers and ballast (i.e., hanging sleepers), which typically results from the differential settlement, is studied. The first part of the paper provides useful insights regarding the interventions (and/or initial design) in the sleeper configuration and spacing, whereas the second part of the work highlights the need for interventions to deal with the loss of contact between sleeper and ballast. A 2-dimensional finite element model of an embankment-bridge transition was used for the analysis. The results show that it is not possible to mitigate the transition effects completely using the interventions involving sleeper spacing and configuration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1285131
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Built Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • mitigation measures
  • railway transition zones
  • strain energy amplification
  • sleeper spacing
  • hanging sleepers


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