Differential railway track settlement in a transition zone – Field measurements and numerical simulations
Licentiatavhandling, 2023

In a transition zone between two different railway track forms, there is a discontinuity in track structure leading to a gradient in track stiffness. Examples include transitions between different superstructures, e.g., slab track to ballasted track, and/or between different substructures, e.g., embankment to a bridge or tunnel structure. Differences in loading and support conditions at the interfaces between track superstructure and substructure on either side of the transition may lead to differential track settlement and an irregularity in longitudinal rail level soon after construction because of densification of ballast and consolidation in the subsoil. This results in an amplification of the dynamic traffic loading along the transition. To ensure the safety of railway operation and reduce maintenance costs, it is necessary to monitor the condition of the transition zone and detect any operational change at an early stage.

A methodology for the simulation of long-term differential track settlement, the development of voided sleepers leading to a redistribution of rail seat loads, and the evolving irregularity in vertical track geometry at a transition between two track forms, is presented. For a prescribed traffic load, the accumulated settlement is predicted using an iterative approach. It is based on a time-domain model of vertical dynamic vehicle–track interaction to calculate the contact forces between sleepers and ballast in the short term. These are used in an empirical model to determine the long-term settlement of the ballast and subgrade below each sleeper. Gravity loads and state-dependent track conditions are accounted for. The methodology is applied to a transition zone between a ballasted track and a slab track that is subjected to heavy haul traffic. The influence of higher axle loads and the implementation of under sleeper pads on sleeper settlement is assessed.

Based on fibre Bragg grating sensors, a setup for in-situ long-term condition monitoring of track bed degradation in a transition zone has been developed and implemented to provide data for verification and calibration of the simulation model. The system is designed for measurements in an operational railway track in harsh conditions in the north of Sweden. The instrumentation along the transition comprises four clusters, each with an optical strain gauge array on the rail web in one sleeper bay, and an accelerometer and a displacement transducer on the sleeper end. Two additional accelerometers are installed far from the transition zone to measure a reference state. Combined, the data should not only provide details on long-term settlements, but also the change in dynamic response it underpins.

fibre Bragg grating sensors

dynamic vehicle–track interaction

heavy haul traffic

non-linear track model

3MB slab track

Transition zone

empirical settlement model

condition monitoring

M Delta, Hörsalsvägen 7A
Opponent: Docent Peter Persson Lund University, Lund, Sweden


Kourosh Nasrollahi

Chalmers, Mekanik och maritima vetenskaper, Dynamik






Annan samhällsbyggnadsteknik



M Delta, Hörsalsvägen 7A


Opponent: Docent Peter Persson Lund University, Lund, Sweden

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