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Improving Australia’s track performance

The launch of a book written by an Australian world leading researcher in rail geotechnology and based on 15 years of cutting-edge research will greatly help industry in its quest to improve track design, construction and performance.

By Jennifer Perry

Rail geotechnology is an area of research conducted by just a small number of research organisations worldwide.

Author of the book, The Advanced Rail Geotechnology – Ballasted Track, Professor Buddhima Indraratna, founded The Centre for Geomechanics and Railway Engineering at the University of Wollongong in 2000.

Since then, under Prof Indraratna’s leadership a wide range of research grants, high calibre postgraduate students and research fellows from all over the world have contributed to cutting-edge experimental research through unique testing equipment and innovative track simulation programs developed in-house for predicting track behaviour accurately.

Prof Indraratna told Rail Express that The Advanced Rail Geotechnology – Ballasted Track is the result of 15 years of fundamental and applied research and a culmination of painstaking observations and state-of-the-art laboratory testing using large scale equipment designed and built in-house.

“The innovations and originality of research outcomes that have influenced the track design and construction aspects make the book world leading,” Prof Indraratna said.

“The book describes comprehensively the role of various geosynthetics to improve track performance and the use of recycled aggregates on track, novel concept designs capturing the effects of particle breakage and track confinement among other salient aspects for modern track upgrading for carrying faster trains with heavier loads,” Prof Indraratna said.

The book will help Australia’s rail industry to improve and modernise its track performance as it clearly explains new concepts to significantly amend existing practices.

“It includes pictorial guides of modern track construction, instrumentation and monitoring for track performance verification and also introduces new ballast and sub-ballast gradations to enhance track performance capturing Australian ground conditions,” he said.

“With the use of geosynthetics and shock mats in track, the damage to ballast caused by high cyclic and impact loading and general track degradation with time can be reduced.

“As a result, the longevity of the track is greatly improved and by promoting recycled ballast to be used in tracks improved with geosynthetics, acceptable track performance is obtained, and this results in reduced need for quarrying of fresh aggregates.”

Prof Indraratna said all of these generate less costs of track maintenance apart from the obvious environmental benefits.

Several real-life rail tracks exploiting research outcomes are already in operation in Australia.

“The use of research outcomes by Australian rail organisations, especially in New South Wales, have propelled Australia to a new platform on the world stage compared to where we were a couple of decades ago,” he said.

“Australia is still behind some countries in Western Europe and Japan where high-speed rail have been in operation with immense efficiency, but in terms of technological knowhow, Australia has caught up with other nations …”

Prof Indraratna’s research efforts have been facilitated under the CRC for Rail Innovation.

Among numerous national and international award over the past decade for his research contributions, Prof Indraratatna was awarded the prestigious 2009 Business-Higher Education Roundtable (BEHRT) award by the Australian Governmetn fro his outstanding contributions to track innovations in collaboration with industry.