Crack propagation assessment of time-dependent concrete degradation of prestressed concrete sleepers

Dan Li, Ruilin You, Sakdirat Kaewunruen

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As prestressed concrete sleepers are continuously exposed to various environmental and loading conditions, it is increasingly crucial to analyse their current and future serviceability performance. In practice, the main cause of cracking in prestressed concrete sleepers is usually induced by impact loads. The most heavily influenced sections are the midspan and rail-seat area of sleepers. This paper investigates the effects of time-dependent concrete strength degradation on the capacity of prestressed concrete sleepers. The factors affecting concrete strength degradation are analysed in order to evaluate the crack behaviour of prestressed concrete sleepers. A finite element modelling approach is developed for prestressed concrete sleepers, which is used to assess the effects of structural behaviour in railway sleepers. The sleeper model has been calibrated and validated. This research firstly discusses time-dependent behaviour using load–crack length responses. It is shown that various cracking modes cause an overall increase in the maximum cracking length as prestressed concrete sleepers age. This paper demonstrates that initial cracking loads and ultimate crack lengths have significant change in first 20 years. After 40 years of service life, the crack resistance of prestressed concrete sleepers becomes very weak which is only 61.32% of the new sleeper. In long term, the initial cracking load keeps reducing, and the crack propagation rate becomes sharp. The presented methodology and results can greatly assist in decision-making for the repair or replacement of prestressed concrete sleepers and aid in the design of new prestressed concrete sleepers considering their future performance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3217
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022


  • concrete degradation
  • crack propagation
  • finite element method
  • prestressed concrete sleeper
  • time-dependent behaviour


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