Review of ballast track tamping: Mechanism, challenges and solutions

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Railway ballast beds bear cyclic loadings from vehicles and deteriorate due to ballast particle degradation (breakage and abrasion), ballast pockets (subgrade defects), fouling (or contamination) and plastic deformation of the beds. Ballast bed deterioration changes the ballast track geometry, which leads to uncomfortable rides, exacerbates wheel-rail interactions and, most importantly, causes safety issues (e.g., derailment). To align the track geometry, tamping is the most widely used means of filling ballast-sleeper gaps and homogenizing ballast beds. Although many studies have been performed on tamping, some necessary research gaps still need to be addressed. To stress the research gaps, tamping studies are critically reviewed in this paper, and the tamping mechanisms, challenges and proposed solutions are introduced and discussed. This review aims to 1) help researchers discover important research directions related to tamping, 2) propose means for tamping methodology improvement/development, and 3) provide advice for developing novel railway track maintenance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123940
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Ballast bed
  • Maintenance
  • Railway ballast
  • Tamping
  • Tamping machine


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