Concrete sleepers for ballasted and non-ballasted track

André Nolles, Engineering Manager BAM Rail presented his view on ‘Concrete sleepers for ballasted and non-ballasted track’ at the Rail Technology Conferences 2008. Read the abstract of his presentation.

Concrete sleepers for ballasted and non-ballasted track

Nowadays most new switches and turnouts are equipped with concrete sleepers. For ballasted track most of these switches are applied in renewal situations, while the non-ballasted are mostly on new-built or complete reconstructed lines.

One of the advantages of using concrete sleepers is the ability of achieving a very high accuracy in the switch geometry. This means a better ride comfort for passengers and less forces onto the switch resulting in less maintenance. Specific attention is required at renewal situations, while switches with wooden sleepers are often optimized at site during maintenance or already at construction in order to correct small differences. This means that before starting the design of a switch with concrete sleepers a detailed survey of the current track layout has to be performed. Only in this way a correct implementation of a new switch within the current track layout can be achieved. One should bear in mind that in principle every switch layout is an unique one.

Another advantage of switches with concrete sleepers is less deterioration in track geometry. Due to its heavy weights, the switch in total will not move easily. On the other hand when maintenance has to be performed, this can only be done with heavy equipment, like tamping machines. Corrections by hand-tamping will never have the effect as it did by switches with wooden sleepers.

The third advantage is that the frog is better supported by a concrete sleeper as it was with a wooden sleeper. At wooden sleepers heavy bending occurred, leading to heavy maintenance.

In principle bending of concrete sleepers at the location of the frog will not occur. However current investigations show that some bending occurs, which requires special attention during inspections. Preventive maintenance should be performed as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration. As explained earlier this preventive maintenance should be performed with tamping machines to be able to receive the best quality and extend the life time of this switch.

The conclusion is that the use of concrete sleepers at switches is positive for the total switch geometry. Side-effect is the required use of heavy equipment like tamping machines to be able to receive the high quality standards and actually extend the life time of a switch.

About André Nolles
ir. A.H. (André) Nolles MBR is Engineering Manager at BAM Rail. He is responsible for the management at the department engineering. This department is responsible within BAM Rail for the design support at contracting as well as construction, espcially in case of Design and Construct contracts. Also the surveying of the tracks during construction and renewals is part of the engineering department of BAM Rail. BAM Rail offers a complete range of rail-related services, from engineering to construction and aftercare, including 24/7 emergency callout. With a staff of 950 well-trained specialists, BAM Rail operates throughout the Netherlands and adjacent regions in neighbouring countries. The activities cover all rail disciplines, from underground cables to the overhead catenary and everything in between. BAM Rail is closely involved in high-profile projects such as the High-Speed Line and the Betuwe Freight Line but is also working on urban tramlines and metro lines as well as rail tracks and crane tracks for industry. BAM Rail is an operating company of the Royal BAM Group.

About Rail Technology Conferences 2008
The Rail Technology Conferences 2008 took place at the Railway Museum in Utrecht on 24 and 25 June. The first day of the conference highlighted Switches and the second day focussed on properties of the wheel/rail contact at Wheel Rail Interface. More information is available at