Optimising the pattern of semi-rigid columns to improve performance of rail tracks overlying soft soil formation

Behzad Fatahi and Hadi Khabbaz


With Australia facing a rapid increase in population in the next 30 years, the government is being proactive in handling the forecasted growth. The release of 2010 Metropolitan Transport Plan by the New South Wales (NSW) Government shows that the State of NSW will see an increase in commuter travel by rail. The NSW rail system is one of the most complex networks in the world and due to population growth, the network will require further expansion with construction of new railway lines partly on weak and marginal ground and will also require more frequent train running on existing lines. This study seeks to identify the effectiveness of semi-rigid inclusion ground improvement techniques particularly stone columns and deep soil mixing in controlling settlement of soft soils when placed under the dead loads of the rail structure and the large live loads of freight trains. The employed numerical study assesses the relationship between the column position in the track cross section and the overall settlement of the ballasted rail formation. The numerical results show that the overall settlement of the track reduces significantly with the use of columns close to the centre of the track and not just under the rail. In addition, application of one layer of geogrids between sub-ballast and sub-grade assists to reduce the maximum settlement of track decreasing the future maintenance costs.