Damage and failure modes of railway prestressed concrete sleepers with holes/web openings subject to impact loading conditions

Sakdirat Kaewunruen, Chayut Ngamkhanong, Chie Hong Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
311 Downloads (Pure)


Prestressed concrete sleepers are essential to the structural integrity of railway track structures, redistributing wheel loads from the rails to underlying ballast bed while securing rail gauges for safe train traffics. In practice, drilled holes or web openings are usually generated ad hoc in sleepers to enable signalling equipment and cables at a construction site. These holes and web openings could however affect the structural integrity of sleepers, especially when they are exposed to impact loading. In fact, statistically, 15 to 25% of dynamic loading conditions are of transience and high-intensity by the nature of wheel-rail interaction over irregularities. This study is thus the first to investigate the impact behaviours of railway sleepers with hole and web openings, which is critical to railway safety and reliability. In this study, three-dimensional finite element modelling using ABAQUS Explicit was used to design and analyse the behaviour of prestressed concrete sleepers with various types of holes and web openings upon impact loading. Two different modelling techniques including concrete damaged plasticity model and brittle cracking model are also exercised to aid in this study. The results obtained show that the brittle cracking model provides better damage results as it can illustrate crack propagation very well until reaching the failure mode under impact loading. The findings illustrate a pathway to use brittle cracking model instead of concrete damaged plasticity model for dynamic impact analysis. Moreover, the outcome of this study will provide a better insight into the influences of holes and web openings on sleepers’ failure modes under impact loading so that appropriate guidance can be proposed to rail engineers in order to generate holes and web openings ad hoc in prestressed concrete sleepers without compromising their structural performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-848
JournalEngineering Structures
Early online date25 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • prestressed concrete
  • sleeper
  • impact loading
  • concrete damaged plasticity
  • brittle cracking model
  • finite element analysis


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