Gong, Cencen (2013) The Interaction Between Railway Vehicle Dynamics And Track Lateral Alignment. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis examines the effect of vehicle dynamics on lateral deterioration of the track alignment. As rail traffic runs along a route, the forces imposed upon the track cause the ballast to settle, and hence the track geometry deteriorates. At a specified value of deterioration the track geometry needs to be restored by tamping or other methods. As the deterioration is mainly in the vertical direction, this aspect has been more widely studied and models have been developed to predict vertical track geometry deterioration. On the other hand, lateral track deterioration is not as well understood, and this thesis aims to fill the gap in this knowledge. However, the understanding of the lateral deterioration mechanisms becomes more important as speed and capacity increase. This thesis describes statistical studies of track lateral deterioration, as well as the development and validation of a vehicle-track lateral dynamic interaction model. This work is undertaken to contribute to the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of track lateral deterioration, therefore making the effective control and reduction of the lateral deterioration achievable.

The statistical analysis provides a better understanding of three aspects of track lateral irregularities, namely: the relationship between vertical and lateral irregularities, the relationship between track curvature and track lateral irregularity and the change in track lateral deterioration over time. The vertical and lateral track irregularity magnitudes are clearly correlated. The track quality in the vertical direction is generally worse than in the lateral direction, however the number of track sections with lateral quality significantly worse than the vertical is non-negligible. The lateral irregularities tend to be larger on curves. It is notable that less than ten percent of the track studied has a constant lateral deterioration due to frequent maintenance activities and bidirectional lateral dynamic forces. Unlike vertical settlement, lateral deterioration develops exponentially in both magnitude and wavelength, and the major influences are found from the irregularities with wavelength longer than 10 m. The change in track lateral irregularity with different curve radii and the lateral deterioration rate are described in separate exponential power functions due to the limitation of the available track data. The parameters for these empirical equations do not remain constant due to the change in track conditions.

Current track lateral models mainly focus on lateral failures such as buckling and lateral sliding. The development of lateral track irregularities tends to be studied using representative values of net lateral forces and net L/V (Lateral/Vertical) load ratios. Unlike other track lateral deterioration models, the model developed in this thesis focuses on the development of lateral irregularities based on the dynamic interactions between the vehicles and the track system. This model makes it possible to carry out more integrations and analysis of the track lateral deterioration in a realistic dynamic simulation, using vehicle models, contact conditions, track initial irregularities, and traffic mix more close to the reality. The vehicle-track lateral dynamic interaction model was validated against track geometry data measured on the West Coast Mainline (WCML) in England. It has been found that the model gives a reasonably accurate prediction of the development of lateral track irregularities. However, it also tends to predict a short wavelength deterioration that is not seen in the actual track deterioration. Improvements to the model are suggested by either adding more factors or simplifying the model depending on specific target application. Enhancing the model by including more details, such as longitudinal forces, temperature effect, more layered track systems, uneven track bed conditions and more representative wheel-rail contact conditions etc., may help understand the reason of the additional short wavelength.

A sensitivity analysis was performed in order to identify the critical factors that influence lateral track deterioration. The track damage caused by specific vehicles can be controlled by understanding different vehicle dynamics behaviour on a particular track section or route. Vehicles with simple suspension design and heavy axle loads tend to cause more lateral track damage. Within a certain speed range, there will be a critical speed that generates the largest lateral deterioration. Vehicles with different dynamic behaviours can generate a potential offset of the lateral deterioration, so it is possible to design the traffic mix to cancel out the peak deterioration. However, it may not be very practical to redesign the traffic mix due to different traffic requirements. Subsequently, actions can be taken to effectively reduce track lateral deterioration, such as optimise the suspension design, vehicle weight, the selection of an optimal operation speed, and enhance the traffic mix design.

As the most important interface between vehicle and track, the wheel-rail contact condition has an extremely large influence on lateral deterioration. Wheel and rail profiles with different wear conditions can cause altered vehicle-track lateral dynamic interaction. It is found that increasingly worn wheel/rail profiles within an acceptable tolerance can effectively reduce the lateral deterioration.

Lateral deterioration can also be reduced by increasing all the track stiffness values, damping values and the mass of rails and sleepers, or alternatively, by decreasing the sleeper spacing. The sleeper-ballast interface is found to play the most important role in lateral deterioration. The interfaces between the sleeper and ballast shoulder, crib and base determines the non-linear characteristic such as hysteresis and sliding features. Improving the strength of the sleeper-ballast interface can improve the elastic limits and hysteresis characteristics, hence reducing the lateral deterioration.

The findings of the investigation indicate that the model provides in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms influencing lateral deterioration and provides effective solutions with consideration of vehicles, wheel-rail contact and the track system.

Further work would include track data with sufficient information in order to develop a more comprehensive empirical model that describes the lateral deterioration, inclusion of more potentially influential factors such as: temperature, ground condition, traffic etc. The model can be improved by taking into account additional factors such as the influence of longitudinal forces from the wheels to the rails, different weather and temperatures, subgrade and ground conditions, etc. The reason for the high frequency noise in the deterioration prediction is not understood yet and it should be discussed in terms of more accurate vehicle simulation results and more comprehensive rail and wheel worn profiles measured on the target track and vehicles. Furthermore, the sleeper-ballast lateral characteristics are not well understood and the previous research in this area is quite limited. To improve on the present work it would be useful to carry out laboratory tests in order to capture more accurately track lateral stiffness and damping values as well as the comprehensive non-linear characteristic of track lateral residual resistance behaviour.

Cencen_Gong_-_Final_Thesis.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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