Antoni, M.; Quiroga, L. M.; Schnieder, E.:
Ballasted track vs. slab track: complementarity’s instead of oppositions.
PSAM 11 & ESREL 2012, Juni 2012.


The lines at high speed, constitute a key growth factor for the rail traffic. The costs of maintenance and renewal of the track and the trackside equipment comprise more than 2/3 of the costs of the total operational costs of a railway infrastructure. In this context, this paper tackles multiple questions of great significance for the infrastructure managers: - Is it necessary to join the trend of slab track in order to run at 400 km/h? - Is this always the most efficient solution technically and economically? - What is the impact of rolling stock on this choice? Summing up, we aim to assess the impact of the track type choice on the whole infrastructute life cycle costs (LCC), taking into account not only the characteristics of the infrastructure but also of the rolling stock, and considering a future operational speed of 400 km/h. In our paper we show that the results of the LCC-analysis can be sensibly different according to the analysis scopce, the inclusion of subcosts associated to service interruptions, the network topology, traffic type, speed, wheel-base, the nature of the subsoil, the impact on signalling and the safety objectives (particularly rail breakages). With the help of recent technical improvements reviewed in our work and with the adequate rolling stock, the modern ballasted track allows to envisage, with a high degree of confidence, an operational speed of 400 km/h with maintenance costs and renewal strategies equivalent to those of a line currently operating at 300 km/h. Therefore, depending on the network topology and the traffic nature, the LCC analysis results show that the ballasted track can turn out to be the right choice for conventional speed tracks, for renewal of existing high speed lines and even for new high speed lines at speeds of, at least, 400 km/h. To this extent ballsted track and slab track turn out not to be excluisive but complementary.