Slab Track Technology
Among the many potential benefits of slab track is increased durability and adaptability. Slab track is capable of accommodating heavy-loaded freight cars and high-speed passenger trains with reduced maintenance. Most importantly, slab track has the inherent strength to resist lateral buckling during hot weather.
CTLGroup has joined expert representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, consultant engineering firms, railroads and Amtrak to participate in the Cooperative Concrete Slab Track Research and Demonstration Program for Shared Freight and High-Speed Passenger Service for the development of slab track in the U.S., which began in December 2000. The goal is to design, construct and test two concrete slab track systems that will maintain strict vertical and horizontal tolerances required by high-speed rail trains while tolerating the heavy axle loads imposed by heavy freight traffic. The two systems that are being researched are the direct fixation slab track (DFST) and the individual dual block track (IDBT), commonly referred to as “low vibration track.”
The research and demonstration program includes: development of the design methodology; conducting laboratory tests on slab track specimens at CTLGroup’s facilities; design and construction of the slab track test section at the Transportation Technology Center (TTC); operating the Heavy Axle Load train over the test section at TTC; and development of slab track life cycle cost software.
Both types of slab track met predicted expectations and performed well during the static and repeated load tests. The measured behavior of the slab track and the calculated behavior of the slab track from structural analysis of the slab track matched fairly well. The slab track is now being tested under actual service conditions at the Transportation Technology Center High Tonnage Loop in Pueblo, CO with funds provided by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The data gathered from this work will establish design precedents for future slab track installations and improve our knowledge about how a concrete slab, opposed to traditional ties and ballast track, can resist the destructive forces of heavy loads, high speeds, and nature and lead to a lower-cost and safer track system.