Effects of railway track design on the expected degradation: Parametric study on energy dissipation

Mehran Sadri, Michaël Steenbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


This paper studies the effect of railway track design parameters on the expected long-term degradation of track geometry. The study assumes a geometrically perfect and straight track along with spatial invariability, except for the presence of discrete sleepers. A frequency-domain two-layer model is used of a discretely supported rail coupled with a moving unsprung mass. The susceptibility of the track to degradation is objectively quantified by calculating the mechanical energy dissipated in the substructure under a moving train axle for variations of different track parameters. Results show that, apart from the operational train speed, the ballast/substructure stiffness is the most significant parameter influencing energy dissipation. Generally, the degradation increases with the train speed and with softer substructures. However, stiff subgrades appear more sensitive to particular train velocities, in a regime which is mostly relevant for conventional trains (100–200 km/h) and less for high-speed operation, where a stiff subgrade is always favorable and can reduce the sensitivity to degradation substantially, with roughly a factor up to 7. Also railpad stiffness, sleeper distance and rail cross-sectional properties are found to have considerable effect, with higher expected degradation rates for increasing railpad stiffness, increasing sleeper distance and decreasing rail profile bending stiffness. Unsprung vehicle mass and sleeper mass have no significant influence, however, only against the background of the assumption of an idealized (invariant and straight) track. Apart from dissipated mechanical energy, the suitability of the dynamic track stiffness is explored as an engineering parameter to assess the sensitivity to degradation. It is found that this quantity is inappropriate to assess the design of an idealized track.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-301
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Sound and Vibration
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2018


  • Dynamic track stiffness
  • Energy dissipation
  • Long-term track performance
  • Track degradation
  • Track design
  • Track settlement


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