Engineers Australia

Laboratory Investigation On The Use Of Vertical Drains To Mitigate Mud Pumping Under Rail Tracks

Aruni Abeywickrama, Buddhima Indraratna, Thanh Trung Nguyen and Cholachat Rujikiatkamjorn


The build-up of excess pore water pressure (EPWP) in undrained soft subgrade under repeated rail loads is the key mechanism causing soil to fluidise, consequently yielding slurry tracks (i.e., mud pumping). This issue has substantially reduced transport efficiency associated with immense cost for track maintenance though considerable effort has been made over the past years. Therefore, this study is carried out to investigate how prefabricated vertical drains (PVDs) can be used to mitigate the accumulated EPWP and associated mud pumping. A series of cyclic triaxial tests including undrained (i.e., without PVDs) and PVD-assisted drained soils are conducted, and their results are compared to evaluate the effect of PVDs on cyclic soil behaviour. In this investigation, subgrade soil collected from a mud pumping site is used while loading parameters including the frequency, confining pressure and cyclic stress ratio (CSR) are considered with respect to heavy rail load condition in the field. The results show that PVDs can help dissipate effectively the accumulated EPWP, thus mitigating soil fluidisation. The current study shows that for undrained condition, lower frequency loading (i.e., slower trains) takes a smaller number of cycles to cause soil failure, whereas for drained cases (i.e., PVDs-assisted specimens), an opposite trend is observed. The study proves that installing PVDs into shallow layer (i.e., 3-5 m depth) is an effective approach to stabilise soft subgrade soil under rail tracks.