The role of stiffness variation in switches and crossings: comparison of vehicle-track interaction models with field measurements

Ilaria Grossoni, Louis Le Pen, Pedro Mascarenhas Jorge, Yann Bezin, Geoff Watson, Dimitrios Kostovasilis, William Powrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The performance of switches and crossings compared with plain line is complicated by the presence of movable parts, changing rail geometry and non-uniformities in the composite and/or trackbed stiffness. These features lead to complex vehicle–track interactions and higher maintenance costs. The trackbed stiffness is the least well-controlled engineering property. A greater variability in trackbed stiffness leads to higher differential trackbed settlement and associated poorer track quality. At switches and crossings, changes in trackbed stiffness are exacerbated by changing rail properties which also contribute to changes in the overall composite track stiffness. This work focuses on the role of variations in stiffness on the performance of switches and crossings. Field measurements of bearer displacement were carried out using geophones at a switch and crossing equipped with under sleeper pads. The vehicle–switch and crossing interaction was modelled using a multi-body system and finite element method. The trackbed stiffness along the whole of the switch and crossing was inferred using the measurements of track deflections in an iterative back-calculation taking account of changing rail properties. It is shown that not including the variation in trackbed/composite stiffness leads to significant under/overestimates of the wheel–rail contact forces. Under sleeper pads are shown to reduce absolute maximum loads, but may increase the variation in deflection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1197
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number10
Early online date12 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of stiffness variation in switches and crossings: comparison of vehicle-track interaction models with field measurements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this