Simulation of vertical dynamic vehicle–track interaction using a three-dimensional slab track model
Journal article, 2020

When improving track design, a better understanding of the track's damage modes is needed, and the railway industry is then dependent on the availability of accurate simulations of the dynamic vehicle–track interaction. In the present study, the vertical dynamic interaction between a travelling railway vehicle and a slab track is simulated in the time domain by using an extended state-space vector approach. A three-dimensional slab track model is launched where the rails are modelled using Rayleigh–Timoshenko beam elements and the concrete panel and roadbed are represented by using either shell or solid finite elements. From the parameterised track model, which is developed in Abaqus using Python scripts, the system matrices are exported to Matlab where the simulation of the dynamic vehicle–track interaction is performed. A complex-valued modal superposition technique is employed, which reduces the computational cost of the simulation. In a post-processing step, calculated wheel–rail contact forces from the dynamic analysis are used as input to the Abaqus track model where various track responses are evaluated. In particular, the time history of principal stresses is determined at critical locations in the concrete panel. Also the influence of the speed of the vehicle on the wheel–rail contact forces, and the influence of a transverse culvert below the track (modelled as a local increase of the foundation bedding modulus) on the track stiffness variation at the rail level, are investigated. A mesh convergence study for a range of track responses has been conducted including investigations of when to use linear or quadratic elements and shell or solid elements. Finally, the presented three-dimensional models have been compared to an alternative two-dimensional model to determine in what situations a two-dimensional model is sufficient.


Vehicle–track coupled dynamics

Dynamic vehicle–track interaction


Ballastless track

Slab track


Emil Aggestam

Chalmers, Mechanics and Maritime Sciences, Dynamics

Jens Nielsen

Chalmers, Mechanics and Maritime Sciences, Dynamics

Engineering Structures

0141-0296 (ISSN)

Vol. 222 110972

Research into enhanced track and switch and crossing system 2 (In2Track-2)

European Commission (EC), 2018-11-01 -- 2021-10-31.

Swedish Transport Administration, 2018-11-01 -- 2021-10-31.

Subject Categories

Mechanical Engineering

Transport Systems and Logistics

Infrastructure Engineering

Areas of Advance



C3SE (Chalmers Centre for Computational Science and Engineering)



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