TRIALS have been taking place near Foggia in Italy with two types of ballastless track that suggest it may be possible to dispense with special noise mitigation and vibration reduction measures.

Part of the High Performance Rail Track research project, the tests were carried out under the Strategic Rail Research Agenda 2020 programme overseen by the European Rail Research Advisory Council. The results were presented at a symposium on slab track technology in Brussels during February. Hipertrack has been co-ordinated by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, working with seven partners in Austria, Italy and Slovenia.

Both types of track feature modular construction, and both make use of a continuous elastomer support (CRS) below the rail. One is a vibration-damping mass-spring design with prefabricated slabs combined with an elastomer under-layer. The other is a development of the Max Boegl design with interlocking precast slabs (RG 9.04 p571).

Nearly 12 months of monitoring in Italy demonstrated that both designs reduced noise and vibration compared with a reference design, a key element being the continuous support pad which absorbs the vertical oscillations of the rail. The trials also confirmed that the track construction materials are subjected to considerably lower stress than in ballasted track, allowing the distance between fastenings to be increased from 650mm to 800mm.

The results indicate that lower life-cycle costs for slab track designs are possible, and were so promising that Italian infrastructure manager RFI is considering a trial section of several km for long-term evaluation.