Track & Structure

With the activities of the Track Expert Group (TEG) and of the Pannel of Structural Experts (PoSE), the Tracks and Structures Sector covers the areas of tracks, earthworks, bridges and tunnels. Both groups have statutory tasks in the fields of track and structures like bridges, tunnels and earthworks but also for any other structural building in the civil engineering field.

Through its projects and activities, the Tracks and Structures Sector manages, develops and promotes technical solutions (products) as well as processes (maintenance operations) to increase the railway system performance reducing operational costs and minimising the LCC of the infrastructure assets maintaining high safety standards and make a sizable contribution to transport sustainability and environmental improvement

Two main strategic axes may be identified:

  • The introduction of innovative technologies, processes and products to achieve a high level of environmental, RAMS and cost performance of the infrastructure system, to reduce the impact of maintenance and to guarantee the availability of infrastructure for operation.
  • The professionalization of the asset management of existing structures and cost-driving systems: preservation of structures exceeding their initially expected lifespan, improvement of assessment technologies and procedures, development of preventive maintenance strategies.
    In line with the general strategy and objectives of the Rail System Forum, the Tracks and Structures Sector intends to achieve its objectives through a comprehensive use of the three fundamental tools: benchmarking, research, and standardisation.

The Track Expert Group

The TEG is working on : The engineering of Asset management for existing track and S&C, Take initiative to develop new and enhanced track solutions and methods, Active influence on European codes and standards, Handle environmental questions, Active work concerning interactions from vehicles , Handle upcoming questions.

Projects and activities

UIC LTR Assessment of track lateral resistance

The assessment and control of lateral track resistance is a safety-related issue that needs to be perfectly understood and mastered.

During the earlier UIC research project “Under Sleeper Pads”, the working team faced the problem of the reference method to be used for the LTR measurement. Different Infrastructure Managers were applying different measurement methods and protocols giving sometimes contradictory results and thus making difficult to have a common appreciation of the results.

Moreover, although in-track measurement of Lateral Track Resistance remains the reference measurement, as it is carried out in the real track conditions, the cost of on-site measurement is getting higher and higher as the track operational capacity is becoming a scare resource and the availability of infrastructure for operation a priority that reduces the time dedicated to maintenance and measurements.
Therefore, there is a strong need for defining alternative measurements methods in laboratory, in a way that all the relevant parameters impacting the results are taken into account in an appropriate and representative way.

Laboratory testing is particularly relevant for the evaluation and comparison of different track design solutions (sleeper shapes and materials, under sleeper pads, under ballast mats, ballast characteristics and properties, etc.). In these particular cases, it offers the advantage of an optimal reproducibility of the testing conditions which makes the measurement results of more general validity and suitable for better comparison and sharing.

The project aims at defining harmonised LTR testing methods for both track and laboratory conditions, by comparing existing practice among the participating Infrastructure Managers and by identifying the existing correlations between on-site and laboratory results.

Influence of Under Sleeper Pads on Track Behaviour

The principal objectives of the "USP in Track" project were:

  • the elaboration of common recommendations on the use of USP,
  • the definition of the requirements for the procedures of qualification and quality control and
  • the evaluation of the technical and economical findings based on the up to-date experience with USP.

The main project output is a leaflet (with guidelines and recommendations) for the UIC members which intend to use USP in their tracks, in order to enable the UIC railways to benefit of the most appropriate USP according to the different track conditions.

For a better understanding of the track behaviour, the project were based on the evaluation of solutions already in service (several hundred kilometres), the evaluation of new and existing test tracks, complementary lab tests as well as modelling.
It also resulted in an input for the European standard CEN TC 256 WI 00256.
The project was carried out between 2010 and 2012 and was based on the findings of the first UIC USP project (No. I/05/U/440), which ended in 2009. The project was subdivided in the following seven work packages:

  • WP 1 - Technologies And Material Properties
  • WP 2 - Lateral Track Behaviour
  • WP 3 - Vertical Track Behaviour
  • WP 4 - Impact of USP On Track Components
  • WP 5 - Noise & Vibration
  • WP 6 - Economic Impact
  • WP 7 - Guidelines/Recommendations

The Panel of Structural Experts

The PoSE includes the expertise of European and Asian infrastructure managers. Currently most of the European infrastructure managers are represented by their heads of Structures or Civil Engineering Departments or important engineers in this field. Asian colleagues from Japan (RTRI) and Korea (KORAIL/KRRI) are participating regularly at the meetings. These meetings are organised regularly in spring each year in Paris and in autumn at various locations of the member railways.
The PoSE is responsible for the UIC leaflets in chapter 7 which are directly related to them (sub-sections 70, 71, 77, 78).

The PoSE is mainly working on the following items:

  • The engineering of existing bridges, tunnels and earthworks
  • Maintaining the current knowledge of railway specific sciences and upgrading the UIC leaflets
  • Support of CEN activities in the field of civil engineering structures for railways, especially
    • regarding dynamic and aerodynamic influences
    • regarding the exceeding of rolling stock masses of existing load models
  • Preparing basic research projects to understand and develop the basics of future railway requirements

For the special projects the PoSE is creating temporary working groups, sometimes in cooperation with European research projects, tasks of the European Commission or CEN working groups, sometimes independently. These projects are financed by the UIC special budget which is provided by the member organisations within the Rail System Forum.

Examples of ongoing projects and activities


Many measures and regulations insure the safety of railway operations. In addition to this belong the generally accepted rules of technology, railway regulations and maintenance regulations. Keeping high safety standards continually reduces the amount of dangerous situations in the railway operations during the last years.

Despite this, a derailment is always possible. Based on the high kinetic energy of railway vehicles accidents can produce big damages. By using of guardrails and guiding lines according to the rules it is possible to minimize the impact hazard.

One task of guardrails combined with catching devices is to protect the main construction for example of a bridge against derailed vehicles and to minimize damages in a case of impact. For double tracked bridges should it be sufficient to install one-sided guardrails on the construction averted side. Another function of guardrails is to protect railway vehi-cles against fall from heights if bridges couldn´t ensure it.

Despite of longtime expert knowledge and extensive investigations is it not possible to give a general statement about the non-restrictive effectiveness of guardrails and catch-ing devices. Before answering the question about the effectiveness of guardrails is it nec-essary to analyse some aspects in detail under a differentiated method of approach. In this summary all results are collected and re-evaluated based on the answers of the questionnaire and compared with standardised criteria for quantitative design.

Download the report from the ETF website.

Assessment of Masonry Arch Bridges

Railways in Europe possess more than 200,000 masonry arch bridges and culverts on their lines which represent almost 50% of their total bridge stock with an inestimable asset value. Many of them have reached the end of their theoretical service lives when judged against current codes. Replacement of these old structures is infeasible for economical resons and due to the fact that many of them belong to the civil engineering heritage of the railways. The solution therefore must lie in optimised management strategies and assessing the bridgestock better.

The principal objectives of the proposed project are the development of an assessment framework that enables bridge owners to determine the safe working load and residual life of masonry arch bridges, the development of tools for the predictive Life Cycle Management and Maintenance Planning of Masonry Arch Bridges,and the dissemination of the results of the project to the railway administrations and other interested professionals.

Assessment of Tunnels

Due to the high number and the old age of tunnels in Europe, and to the wide
variety of construction techniques and constitutive materials, there is nowadays no uniform understanding and shared strategies, within the UIC networks, about maintenance of tunnels, the structural health of which is of first importance for the security of the railway system.

The existing UIC 779-10 leaflet presents the principles of diagnostic and maintenance. But to face the upcoming maintenance needs of these aging structures in a technical and cost efficient way, an optimized management of work is required, as well as a clear maintenance strategy, based on the self experience of infrastructure managers and on a strong scientific background. This should allow a better prioritization of maintenance works, based on an optimized assessment of the tunnels conditions (using quantitative or qualitative indicators) and a enhanced management and planning of works, thanks to a better scientific understanding of the behavior and of the degradation laws of tunnels in their environment.

The main aim of the projet is to progress in tunnel assesment and safety management, and propose best practices in terms of diagnostic, maintenance management (especially priorization and planification of works) and definition of repair methods.

Calculation of the payload limits for freight wagons

This program is based on the European Norm EN 15528. It provides the calculation of the payload limits of freight wagons for each line category. The calculation of the load limit tables with this UIC programme guarantees exact and optimised values for individual wagons taking the real axle spacing into account..

The documentation of this program is included in the menu “help” and “open documentation”.

Contact person for software matters: Thomas Reichl
Contact person for technical matters: Manfred Mautner

UIC members can download the software below.

You need administrator privileges to install the software.
This software runs on machines with Windows 2000 and higher


Laurent Schmitt Senior Adviser

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