Kevin Briggs, University of Southampton.This paper was first published in GE’s June 2010 issue.
Approximately 5,000km of embankment has been supporting the UK’s railway infrastructure for more than 100 years. Failure and deformation of these ageing embankments affects track alignment, causing delay and disruption to rail services. Network Rail estimates that train delays directly attributable to poor earthwork performance was 400,000 minutes over the period 2000-2003 at a cost of £26m (Scott et al, 2007).
Poor embankment performance has been linked to local geology, with areas of high plasticity clay, such as London clay, being the most problematic (Mott MacDonald, 2005).