Water content variation of railway track sub-ballast layer in seasonal frost area: A case study from Finland

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Many previous international studies have found a clear relationship between railway track water content and track geometry problems. The proper drainage of substructures is important in ensuring the safe and efficient operation of tracks. This importance will be emphasized in the future with the increasing frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the raising axle weights of train traffic. In many studies, excessive water content has been found to cause excessive geometry deterioration and mud pumping. These problems are usually related to thin substructure layers. However, in this case study, Finland, track substructures are thick due to frost protection requirements and behave differently to thin substructures. In this study, the long-term water content of three instrumented test sites was monitored to study the seasonal and freeze–thaw effects, as well as the effects of drainage improvement made at one site. In a previously reported part of the same research project, the measured water contents were used in an extensive cyclic loading triaxial test series evaluating the loading resistance of substructure materials taken from the same sites. The drainage improvement resulted in a marked decrease in the average water content at the drainage improvement test site. Simultaneously, high momentary water content values also disappeared. The role of capillary water was observed to be less than expected on Finnish railways.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100926
JournalTransportation Geotechnics
Early online date24 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • drainage
  • soil moisture
  • groundwater level
  • sub-ballast layer water content
  • sesonal effects
  • precipitation
  • freezing-thawing

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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