Ballastless track systems: top performance on a firm foundation

Rail traffic is reaching out toward new horizons on ballastless track systems. The arguments are indeed convincing: long life cycles, top speed, ride comfort, and great load-carrying capability. You take no chances with these systems, especially with newly constructed lines: even at speeds over 300 km/h, your coffee will stay in your cup. Practically maintenance free, ballastless track systems ensure almost 100% availability over many years. In many cases, a maintenance-free track system is indeed the more cost-effective solution over the long run.

The actual breakthrough in Germany for ballastless track technology on high-speed routes took place on the new line between Cologne and the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main complex. For the first time, Deutsche Bahn AG applied this new technology on a full section of track: with extremely high levels of technical quality, and with great overall success.

The success of ballastless-track technology is primarily based on the following advantages:

Stability, precision, and ride comfort

Ballastless track assures a permanently stable track position and stands up to the great loads subjected by high-speed train traffic, with performance characterized by top quality, functionality, and safety. Millimetre-exact adjustment of the track system during assembly on the construction site is the prerequisite for great ride comfort in the train, and for reduction of loads experienced by the rolling stock.

Long life cycles and practically no maintenance

With its service life of at least 60 years - with little or no requirement for service or maintenance - ballastless track offers great availability and unmatched cost effectiveness in high-speed operations.

Flexibility and end-to-end effectiveness in application

With its comparatively very low structural height, and with the possibility of achieving optimal required track position, ballast track technology offers highly attractive and beneficial solutions as end-to-end systems technology for main-track and turnout sections, for application on a uniform basis on embankments, bridges, and tunnels.

Basis for optimal routing of rail lines

For high-speed operations, ballastless technology enables more direct routing of train lines, with tighter radii and greater slopes. These benefits enable reduction, or even elimination, of costs and work for civil-engineering structures.

Highly developed installation technology, sophisticated just-in-time logistics in deliveries to the construction site, and highly efficient project management: these are the prerequisites for fast construction of new rail lines – with integrated quality assurance. Consequently, these are the benefits that have led to application of ballastless track technology in continuing major projects for rail lines: not only in Germany , where approximately 800 km of ballastless track has been installed alone since 1991, but in other major projects around the world.

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Overview of ballastless track systems

Ballastless tracks can be built on either asphalt or concrete supporting layers. Track systems installed on asphalt supporting layers predominantly feature direct-support configurations: for example, in the form of GETRAC® and ATD applications. On the other hand, systems implemented with concrete supporting layers offer the selection among an optimal diversity of models with homogeneous system structures.

Starting from the basis of traditional trough-track designs with mono-block sleepers, RHEDA track models were further developed to track systems with bi-block sleepers. Bi-block applications guarantee a safe and reliable bond between the sleeper and the infill concrete as well as easier handling. The restoration of the Berlin MRT system (the S-Bahn) enabled gaining of extensive valuable insights into the structural engineering of such track systems. This experience resulted, for example, in further development of the full-block bi-block sleeper, to design the type B 355 TS-M. This sleeper is characterized by reduction in total structural height. The engineering design of this model guarantees a high degree of exactness in track gauge, as well as in overall track geometry. In addition, these modifications enabled further improvement in the bond of the sleeper in the structural concrete.

Earlier RHEDA models occasionally developed longitudinal cracks between the trough and the infill concrete that could influence the long-term behaviour of the ballastless track system. This development prompted engineers to consider the design of a RHEDA model without a trough. This model was successfully implemented with mono-block sleepers on the Berlin-Hanover high-speed line, in Rathenow. Experience gained with the RHEDA-BERLIN model, and with RHEDA designs without trough, led in turn to development of the B 355 M lattice-truss sleeper. These developments formed a further significant milestone on the way to the pioneering RHEDA 2000® system.

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Further information

RHEDA 2000®

The RHEDA 2000® ballastless track system is designed for application on mainline tracks, especially on high-speed lines.

GETRAC®

The GETRAC® system has proven successful as ballastless solution on asphalt. Since 2004, it has official German approval for high-speed applications.

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On ballastless tracks into the future of railways

Track-system technology for the railway infrastructure of the twenty-first century.

Berlin S-Bahn

In 1994, Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) reached the decision to install the RHEDA-BERLIN version of the ballastless track for use on one of the most heavily frequented rail lines of the world: the Berlin S-Bahn MRT network. DB equipped approx. 9 km of four-track lines with this system, with small-radius curves and more than 50 bridges.

West Coast Main Line (WCML)

Ballastless track systems also offer essential advantages for the upgrading of tunnels. The low structural height of this track system was essential in winning the contract for upgrading the WCML in England: the Prestbury and Hibel Road Tunnels have been equipped with the RHEDA 2000® track system.

At a glance

The ballastless track systems by RAIL.ONE