Greener and leaner - unleashing capacity of railroad concrete ties via limit states concept
New knowledge has raised a concern about the cost-ineffective design methods and the true performance of railroad prestressed concrete ties. Because of previous knowledge deficiencies, railway civil and track engineers have been aware of the conservative design methods for structural components in any railway track that rely on allowable stresses and material strength reductions. In particular, railway sleeper (or railroad tie) is an important component of railway tracks and is commonly made of prestressed concrete. The existing code for designing such components makes use of the permissible stress design concept, whereas the fiber stresses over cross sections at initial and final stages are limited by some empirical values. It is believed that the concrete ties complying with the permissible stress concept possess unduly untapped fracture toughness, based on a number of proven experiments and field data. Collaborative research run by the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Railway Engineering and Technologies (Rail CRC) was initiated to ascertain the reserved capacity of Australian railway prestressed concrete ties that were designed using the existing design code. The findings have led to the development of a new limit-states design concept. This paper highlights the conventional and the new limit-states design philosophies and their implication to both the railway community and the public.