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High Speed Rail: Track Construction Considerations

[+] Author Affiliations
Blaine O. Peterson

VAE Nortrak, Cheyenne, WY

Paper No. JRC2011-56021, pp. 65-75; 11 pages
  • 2011 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2011 Joint Rail Conference
  • Pueblo, Colorado, USA, March 16–18, 2011
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5459-4 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3893-8
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


This paper discusses general High Speed Rail (HSR) track geometry, construction and maintenance practices and tolerances. The discussion will reference several key international projects and highlight different construction methods and the track geometry assessments used to establish and ensure serviceability of a typical HSR system. Historically, established tighter tolerances of “Express” HSR (i.e. operating speeds greater than 240 km/h or 150 mph) systems have favored the use of slab track systems over ballasted track systems. Slab track systems offer greater inherent stability while ballasted track systems generally require more frequent track geometry assessments and anomaly-correcting surfacing operations. The decisions related to which system to use for a given application involve numerous considerations discussed only briefly in this paper. In many cases, the optimal solution may include both track forms. Rolling stock considerations and their influence on track infrastructure design are considered beyond the scope of this paper. This paper will focus predominantly on two slab track systems widely used in international HSR projects: the Japanese J-slab track system; and the German Rheda slab track system. The French track system will be referenced as the typical ballasted track HSR design. The practices discussed in this paper generally apply to systems which are either primarily or exclusively passenger rail systems. In the U.S., these types of systems will necessarily exclude the systems the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) refers to as “Emerging” or “Regional” HSR systems which include passenger train traffic to share trackage on, what are otherwise considered, primarily freight lines.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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