Long-term behaviour of padded concrete sleepers on reduced ballast bed thickness

Stefan Marschnig*, Ursula Ehrhart, Stefan Offenbacher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The positive effects of under sleeper pads have already been proven by track and laboratory tests worldwide. In Austria, padded concrete sleepers reduce track deterioration by 50 percent and have therefore been used as standard components since 2010. As the pads increase material costs, many infrastructure managers have discussed the idea of covering costs by reducing the ballast bed thickness. Technically, this approach (less ballast) is feasible, as the pads increase the track elasticity and protect the ballast. Further, pads lead to higher rail deflection and distribution of the load to more sleepers, and the stresses in sleepers are therefore relieved. Here, we compared Austrian test sections with padded and unpadded concrete sleepers and with a difference in the ballast bed thickness: standard thickness of 30 cm against 20 cm below the sleeper. Fractal analyses and standard deviations of the track’s longitudinal level provided information about the sections’ long-term track behaviour over 20 years. We found that the standard solution with 30 cm ballast performed better in the long term compared to 20 cm. Additionally, the test section with padded sleepers on a reduced ballast bed thickness showed a lower maintenance demand than the unpadded concrete sleeper track on a 30 cm ballast bed.

Translated title of the contributionLangzeit Verhalten besohlter Betonschwellen bei reduzierter Schotterbettstärke
Original languageEnglish
Article number132
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • ballast bed thickness
  • LCC
  • railway infrastructure
  • track quality
  • under sleeper pads

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Building and Construction
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Civil and Structural Engineering

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems


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