Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Bow wave effect

The bow wave effect occurs when the train speed approaches the velocity of surface waves generated by the train in the foundations, typically at speeds of around 150mph - an effect similar to the sonic boom created by supersonic jets.

At low train speeds the surface waves travelling along the track have time to dissipate, but at high speeds the train catches up with these waves, and adds more on top. The waves interact causing vibrations as great as 20mm. These vibrations shake the ballast, which can lead to track alignment and sleeper support problems, requiring frequent remedial work.

Problems with the bow wave effect have caused speed restrictions to be imposed on high-speed lines at Ledsgard in Sweden and at Stilton Fen near Peterborough.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.