Rail wear rate on the Belgian railway network: a big-data analysis

Tim Vernaillen, Li Wang, Alfredo Núñez*, Rolf Dollevoet, Zili Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This paper presents a big data-based analysis of the rail wear of the whole Belgian railway network measured in 2012 and 2019. Wear rates are reported, discussed, and quantitatively formulated as functions of critical factors in terms of curve radius, annual tonnage (rail age), high rail in curves, an average from both rails in straight tracks at rail top (vertical wear) and gauge corner (45° wear) and for steel grade R200 and R260. The influence of preventive grinding is also analysed. The wear rates are derived in an aggregated manner for the whole network. The wear rates do not show significant change with changes in rolling stock over the years, implying that the wear rates could also hold for other networks. It is found that R200 shows, on average, a 34% higher wear rate than R260. Also, the wear rate per tonnage is lower for high-loaded tracks. Thus, time is a relevant factor in explaining the wear evolution of low-loaded tracks; for instance, the effect of corrosion may have an important role. The paper provides statistically significant information that can be used for wear modelling, understanding and treating rolling contact fatigue based on the wear rate and developing tailored rail maintenance strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Rail Transportation
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • big data
  • country-wide assessment
  • Rail
  • wear rate


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