Railway track geometry degradation due to differential settlement of ballast/subgrade – Numerical prediction by an iterative procedure
Journal article, 2018

An iterative procedure for numerical prediction of long-term degradation of railway track geometry (longitudinal level) due to accumulated differential settlement of ballast/subgrade is presented. The procedure is based on a time-domain model of dynamic vehicle–track interaction to calculate the contact loads between sleepers and ballast in the short-term, which are then used in an empirical model to determine the settlement of ballast/subgrade below each sleeper in the long-term. The number of load cycles (wheel passages) accounted for in each iteration step is determined by an adaptive step length given by a maximum settlement increment. To reduce the computational effort for the simulations of dynamic vehicle–track interaction, complex-valued modal synthesis with a truncated modal set is applied for the linear subset of the discretely supported track model with non-proportional spatial distribution of viscous damping. Gravity loads and state-dependent vehicle, track and wheel–rail contact conditions are accounted for as external loads on the modal model, including situations involving loss of (and recovered) wheel–rail contact, impact between hanging sleeper and ballast, and/or a prescribed variation of non-linear track support stiffness properties along the track model. The procedure is demonstrated by calculating the degradation of longitudinal level over time as initiated by a prescribed initial local rail irregularity (dipped welded rail joint).

Complex-valued modal synthesis

Differential settlement

Iterative procedure

Dynamic vehicle–track interaction

Track geometry degradation


Jens Nielsen

Chalmers, Mechanics and Maritime Sciences (M2), Dynamics

Xin Li

Chalmers, Mechanics and Maritime Sciences (M2), Dynamics

Journal of Sound and Vibration

0022-460X (ISSN) 1095-8568 (eISSN)

Vol. 412 441-456

Subject Categories

Applied Mechanics

Computational Mathematics

Vehicle Engineering



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