The Use of Under Sleeper Pads to Improve the Performance of Rail Tracks
2020, Indian Geotechnical Society. In recent years, with the growing demand for both passenger and freight mobility, faster and heavier rail traffic has been the norm rather than the exception in many countries. As a result, track geometry and the safety of ballasted rail tracks have been adversely affected, leading to exacerbated maintenance costs. Increased stresses in granular foundation induce progressive track degradation, which can result in excessive vertical and lateral deformation, ballast and subballast fouling and impeded drainage. These effects tend to be more severe at specific locations, such as bridges, level crossings and tunnels (i.e. over stiff subgrade). Finding an economical strategy to mitigate ballast degradation has been a challenging task for practitioners, and the inclusion of energy-absorbing rubber pads underneath the sleepers (under sleeper pads-USPs) to minimise track damage is an attractive solution. This paper presents a laboratory study conducted at the University of Wollongong to investigate the use of USPs as resilient elements in ballasted rail tracks involving a stiff subgrade. Test results have shown a significant improvement in track performance resulting from the use of USPs, whereby it is demonstrated that ballast damage induced by the applied cyclic loads can be reduced due to the favourable damping characteristics of these rubber pads. A significant attenuation in particle breakage was observed along with a reduction in both the vertical settlement and lateral movement of the ballast layer, thereby suggesting that USPs can be an effective means of improving the stability and serviceability of the track system.