Finite Element Modelling of Modular Precast Composites for Railway Track Support Structure – A battle to save Sydney Harbour Bridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Railway networks in Australian alone require replacing a large amount of aging timber components in excess of 280,000 m3 per year. The replacement of timber track components is responsible for producing greenhouse gas emissions 6 times greater than equivalent reinforced concrete counterparts. Sydney Harbour Bridge presently experiences similar problem. A feasibility study to develop an innovative solution for the replacement of aging timber transoms installed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge was conducted to evaluate environmental, safety and financial benefits. The development of alternative composite structure to replace the timber components overcomes some potential compatibility issues with track stiffness as well as structural and geometrical track systems. This study firstly presents a novel and resilient alterative by incorporating steel-concrete composite theory and combining the capabilities of being precast and modular, in order to reduce the depth, weight and required installation time relative to conventional concrete track slab systems. Finite element analysis of the composite structures and its behaviours incorporating the bridge system are highlighted in this paper. A three-dimensional model of steel-concrete composites was developed by using ABAQUS. Nonlinear material properties and contact interfaces have been simulated to mimic actual support conditions of existing stringers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This investigation demonstrates the safety of the composite panels under train derailment loads.

Bibliographic note

Griffin, D. W. P., Mirza, O., Kwok, K. & Kaewunruen, S. 2015, “Finite element modelling of modular precast composites for railway track support structure: A battle to save Sydney Harbour Bridge”, Australian Journal of Structural Engineering, Vol. 16, No. 2, April, pp. 150-168,


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-168
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Structural Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • railway infrastructure, tracks, transoms, components, steel-concrete composites, maintenance, replacement, derailment-resistant design, Sydney Harbour Bridge