Optimized Whole Life Management of Rail Infrastructure Elements

In order to effectively manage ageing railway infrastructure, a well-defined safety assessment framework is required. In the SMARTRAIL project, a reliability-based framework was developed for an optimized whole life management of rail infrastructure elements including; bridges, tracks and slopes. Such approaches allow for the modelling of the uncertainty associated with the input parameters for an assessment and the effective application of site-specific data (e.g. loading/strength).

New techniques

Methods to obtain real-time information on the performance of rail infrastructure, which could feed the reliability, based model and allow updating of the safety level were developed and tested on railway infrastructure across the EU. These techniques included;

  • the development of innovative sensors to monitor the corrosion rate of steel and concrete bridges,
  • the application of geophysical techniques as a non-destructive method of evaluating the condition of open-track and embankments,
  • the use of simple accelerometers to derive a vibration based method of measuring the development of bridge scour and
  • the development of an early warning system for rainfall induced landslides.

Non-technical User Guidelines

Life Cycle Analysis - Whole Life Cycle Tool

In order to make rational choices on the economic and environmental benefits of any remedial works, a life cycle analysis (LCA) and life cycle cost (LCC) tool were developed within the project. The tool, was used to prove the environmental and economic cost benefits associated with the remediation techniques demonstrated in the project.

Innovative User Platform

The SMARTRAIL project was a truly collaborative project which through the establishment of a user platform, involved major stakeholders including rail operators, infrastructure managers, engineers, researchers, regulatory bodies and policy makers from the beginning of the project. Engagement with industry was undertaken in the form of face to face interviews, questionnaires, workshops and bilateral agreements. A number of specialist workshops, conference sessions and scientific papers were organized and published. A particular feature of the project is the publication of non-technical user guidelines that should facilitate the widespread exploitation of the results of the project.

Demonstration Projects

The framework documentation includes typical distributions of stochastic variables and recommends target levels of reliability. The approach was illustrated by application of the methodology to two demonstration projects, a steel railway bridge in Poland and a 150-year-old railway embankment in Ireland. A particular feature of reliability-based assessment is that it provides information on when remediation work should be performed on a given element. Given the different challenges faced by infrastructure managers across the EU and the range of local materials available to effect solutions, a series of full-scale demonstration projects were undertaken in conjunction with infrastructure managers who participated in the SMARTRAIL project. These included:

  • the remediation of a metallic bridge using ultra high-strength fibre reinforced concrete in Croatia,
  • the use of geosynthetics to prevent ballast fouling in Slovenia, and
  • the demonstration of the efficacy of a new technique which uses vertical anchors to provide a smooth variation of stiffness across the transition zone for the reconstructed Buna Bridge in Croatia.

Full project results, deliverables, conference presentations and supporting documents are available here

Start date: 1st September 2011
Duration: 36 months


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