Discrete element modelling of geogrid-reinforced railway ballast and track transition zones

Chen, Cheng (2013) Discrete element modelling of geogrid-reinforced railway ballast and track transition zones. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Track deterioration has a serious influence on the safety and efficiency (speed restriction) of train operations. Many expensive, disruptive and frequent repair operations are often required to maintain the ballast characteristics due to the problem of settlement. Because of this, a geogrid solution that has proved to be a simple and economical method of reinforcing track ballast is widely used.

This project presents an evaluation of the behaviour of geogrid-reinforced railway ballast. Experimental large box pull-out tests were conducted to examine the key parameters influencing the interaction between ballast and the geogrid. The experimental results demonstrated that the triaxial geogrid with triangular apertures outperforms the biaxial geogrid with square apertures and the geogrid aperture size is more influential than rib profile and junction profile. The discrete element method (DEM) has then been used to model the interaction between ballast and geogrid by simulating large box pull-out tests and comparing with experimental results. The DEM simulation results have been shown to provide good predictions of the pull-out resistance and reveal the distribution of contact forces in the geogrid-reinforced ballast system.

The discrete element method has also been used to simulate cyclic loading of geogrid-reinforced ballast under confined and unconfined conditions. For the confined condition, box tests have been simulated on unreinforced samples and reinforced samples with different geogrid positions and geogrid apertures. The response of the ballast layer reinforced with geogrid under repeated loading agrees with experimental results. It was found that the optimum location of geogrid is 100 mm depth from base, and the triaxial geogrid outperforms biaxial geogrid. For the unconfined condition, cyclic loading of a trough of ballast has also been simulated, and the sample with the geogrid at 50mm from the sub-ballast layer performs best. It was also found that the used of two geogrids at both 50mm and 150mm from the sub-ballast gave a smaller settlement than using a single layer geogrid, or the unreinforced ballast. The geogrid reinforcement limits the lateral displacement in reinforced zone, which is approximately 50mm above and below the geogrid.

Previous investigations have shown that the abrupt stiffness change in track support is often associated with accelerated rates of deterioration of track geometry, high maintenance demand, and poor ride quality. However, at present, there is no detailed understanding of the mechanisms of track geometry deterioration at transition zones. This work provides insight into the factors that can cause or accelerate track degradation at the transition zones, in order to identify and evaluate appropriate mitigation design. A simple track transition model with dimensions 2.1m x 0.3m x 0.45m was simulated by using PFC3D. In order to identify and evaluate appropriate mitigation methods, two kinds of transition patterns, including a single step change and a multi step-by-step change for subgrade stiffness distribution were tested. The influence of the train direction of travel and speed on the transition were also investigated. In addition, geogrid was used in the ballast layer to examine the effects of geogrid reinforcement.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: McDowell, G.R.
Thom, N.H.
Keywords: Railroad tracks, ballast (Railroads), geogrids
Subjects: T Technology > TF Railroad engineering and operation
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Civil Engineering
Item ID: 13399
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2013 13:17
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 02:32
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13399

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