Given the ongoing demand for faster trains for carrying heavier loads, conventional ballasted railroads require considerable upgrading in order to cope with the increasing traffic-induced stresses. During train operations, ballast deteriorates due to progressive breakage and fouling caused by the infiltration of fine particles from the surface or mud-pumping from the underneath layers (e.g. sub-ballast, sub-grade), which decreases the load bearing capacity, impedes drainage and increases the deformation of ballasted tracks. Suitable ground improvement techniques involving geosynthetics and resilient rubber sheets are commonly employed to enhance the stability and longevity of rail tracks. This keynote paper focuses mainly on research projects undertaken at the University of Wollongong to improve track performance by emphasising the main research outcomes and their practical implications. Results from laboratory tests, computational modelling and field trials have shown that track behaviour can be significantly improved by the use of geosynthetics, energy-absorbing rubber mats, rubber crumbs and infilled-recycled tyres. Full-scale monitoring of instrumented track sections supported by rail industry (ARTC) has been performed, and the obtained field data for in situ stresses and deformations could verify the track performance, apart from validating the numerical simulations. The research outcomes provide promising approaches that can be incorporated into current track design practices to cater for high-speed freight trains carrying heavier loads.