Below Rail Infrastructure, Engineering, Passenger Rail

Proven track drainage solution ideal for Australia’s fast rail developments

Chinese high speed train. Photo: Bombardier

The emerging fast rail sector in Australia could benefit from proven European technology. German firm Fraenkische says its RailPipe drainage solution would be ideal for future developments.


With German ICE trains travelling at speeds of up to 330km/h, you need to maintain a perfectly flat, straight track, without any bumps or dips, which are normally caused by settlement issues relating to poor drainage under the track.

For this purpose German firm Fraenkische developed its RailPipe system, which fully complies with the Deutsche Bahn DBS 918064 Rail Standard.

“In fact, when it comes to railway drainage solutions, RailPipe SN16 Drainage Pipe is the first twin-wall pipe to meet all the standards and requirements of Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the German Standards Authority (ASA) here in Australia,” Fraenkische’s business manager for Australia, Stephen Herd, tells Rail Express. “RailPipe can therefore be used for all pressure ranges of the roadbed and track.”

With its unique, highly permeable perforation design, RailPipe is designed to help a drainage system rapidly accumulate infiltration water, and quickly direct it to proper drainage channels.

Fraenkische has positioned itself as a market leader and innovator in drainage solutions for the civil infrastructure, roads and railway sectors in Germany and across Europe for the last 30 years. Herd says given the collection of fast rail, regional and urban city upgrade projects already funded, RailPipe could be a “game changer” for conventional drainage methodologies still being practiced in Australia.

“This technology represents real innovation for the Australian market, as most rail drainage solutions are placed outside of the track and are usually traditional materials like concrete or steel which are susceptible to corrosion,” Herd says.

Rail drainage systems traditionally have suffered from from corrosion and rust over time, due to the excessive exposure to water and runoff frequently seen in the below rail environment.

In many remote Australian locations, this issue is amplified by conditions ranging from aridly hot and dry, to snow and ice, to tropically humid and wet. This means network operators must perform frequent inspections, maintenance and replacement works.

As an example, the Australian Rail Track Corporation in March began the tender process to upgrade 316 kilometres of its network along Victoria’s North East line. The $235 million upgrade program includes the addition and replacement of railway ballast, drainage upgrades and the removal of mudholes where ballast has been contaminated.

Herd says Fraenkische designed RailPipe as a single solution for multiple applications.

“Not only can it be used outside of and in the external pressure range of the track, but also in the inside pressure range,” Herd explains. “RailPipe has passed rigorous quality control by the external centre of MFPA Leipzig in terms of safety and stability.

The thorough testing included dynamic fatigue tests determining the fatigue strength in 10⁸ load cycles. The results proved the durability of the design as it was still able to hold its integrity. This is why RailPipe easily complies with the minimum 100-year design life requirements in Australia.”

RailPipe’s SN16 twin-wall design comprises a smooth inside layer and a corrugated exterior, allowing the pipe to be placed directly in the inside pressure range of the below-rail infrastructure; a unique capability for a corrugated polypropylene pipe in the rail sector, Herd says. In addition, for operations and maintenance, RailPipe complies with the Pressure Jetting Standard DIN 19523, which requires twin-wall corrugated pipes to be able to withstand water pressure cleaning of 450W/mm². Herd says RailPipe can handle 1100W/mm², making it an extremely hard-wearing pipe for track drainage.

Burial depths can vary within the railbed for drainage applications, so RailPipe has been approved for use from 1m to 6m below the track.

RailPipe is manufactured in a fully unperforated format, UP, with this pipe preferred for water transport. Fraenkische then adds perforations to the pipe for different applications, with three main designs available: the Multi-Purpose (MP) pipe includes perforations along 120 degrees of its circumference, while the Locally Perforated (LP) design features 220 degrees of perforations. The Totally Perforated (TP) pipe has perforations all along its circumference.

“RailPipe’s capabilities can be especially useful along key sections of rail corridors with reactive soils with weak load-bearing capacity that require effective drainage under the track,” Herd says. “Without effective drainage, settlement and washouts can be a regular operations and maintenance challenge, and this has been seen at times along key stretches of railway in Australia. By quickly and effectively draining excess water runoff away from these areas, an operator can prolong the life exectancy of the track geometry.”


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