Characterisation of rigid polyurethane foam‑reinforced ballast through cyclic loading box tests

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 9
  • Abstract:

    As train speeds and heavy haul axle loads constantly increase due to market demands, so do the stresses and strains experienced by track structures. This is especially true for track transitions that generate high dynamic forces on both the track and vehicles because of poor vertical track geometry and/or differing track stiffness values on either side of the track transition. Reducing differential settlement between the two track structures at a track transition is one method of improving the life of the track, and increasing maintenance intervals. In this study, rigid polyurethane foam was used to reinforce ballast. Tests were conducted using a dynamic hydraulic load frame and a single sleeper in a large ballast box subjected to heavy haul axle loads. Unreinforced, reinforced and 50% reinforced ballast layers of 300 mm depth were tested to approximately 5 000 000 load cycles. The results showed that rigid polyurethane foamreinforced ballast exhibited in the order of 60% less settlement for a fully reinforced layer, and 42% less settlement for a half reinforced layer. The use of rigid polyurethane foam (RPF) to reinforce ballast has a number of benefits that could result in better track geometry and longer maintenance cycles, in turn resulting in lower life cycle costs.