RAILTRACK IS considering using high technology ballastless track on open lines.
A briefing on rail track bed technology held on Monday was told that Railtrack would soon be holding a workshop on the concrete-based systems developed in Europe and Japan.
Lead speaker at Monday's briefing was Professor Coenraad Esveld of the Delft University of Technology. He said that recent research into possible track systems for Holland's planned High Speed Line South had shown that traditional ballasted track was no longer the cheapest option.
'High speed trains churn up the ballast, stones get trapped between rail and wheels causing excessive wear and high maintenance costs,' said Esveld.
He added: 'On conventional lines the ballastless alternative offers much greater track availability in the long term. Add this to life cycle costs and ballasted track soon looks a lot less economic.'
Esveld described two basic ballastless systems. In slab track designs the ballast is replaced by a concrete slab, but the rails are still supported by concrete sleepers. This offers the high lateral resistance needed to counter the increased cornering forces of high speed trains, while weighing less. However, more noise is generated compared to ballasted track.
The embedded track system, in which a flexible cork/polyurethane compound holds the rails into concrete troughs, is said to be much quieter. And as the track is continuously supported, it can eliminate rail breakages and buckling.