Mechanisms and evolution of cracks in prestressed concrete sleepers exposed to time-dependent actions

Dan Li, Ruilin You, Sakdirat Kaewunruen

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Railway sleepers are an important component of track systems, which can be manufactured by timber, concrete, steel and any other engineered materials. They serve as rail supports and transfer loads from trains to substructures of track systems. In railway networks worldwide, prestressed concrete sleepers are more common than other material types because of their cost-efficacy, environmental friendliness, higher stability and performance, and durability. However, certain types of damage can still appear due to diverse load spectra and aggressive environmental conditions. The causes of cracking observed in prestressed concrete sleepers are usually induced by impact loads. The most affected sections are at the midspan and the rail-seat area of sleepers. Over a long term, time-dependent actions also affect the structural performance of prestressed concrete sleepers. This paper intends to determine the time-dependent crack phenomena in prestressed concrete sleepers under static conditions. Nonlinear finite element method (FEM) has been developed and validated by full-scale experimental tests of prestressed concrete sleepers in accordance with EN13230. In this study, equivalent losses of prestress as a result from time-dependent actions and resultant behaviours are considered. Their influences on crack initiation and propagation in prestressed concrete sleepers have been demonstrated. The results exhibit that the crack simulation can accurately predict the cracking behaviours and the time-dependent behaviour of prestressed concrete sleepers. This insight is critically essential to experimental load rating prediction, that can appropriately estimate the remaining life of aged railway concrete sleepers exposed to time-dependent actions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5511
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2022


  • FEM
  • crack simulation
  • loss of prestress
  • prestressed concrete
  • railway sleeper
  • static test
  • time-dependent behaviour


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