Probabilistic risk analysis of flying ballast hazard on high-speed rail lines

Flying ballast is a significant safety concern for high-speed train operations on ballasted tracks. It is the phenomenon of a ballast particle displaced from the track, due to the aerodynamic force induced by a passing train traveling above a certain speed. Flying ballast can potentially damage tracks and rolling stock, thereby posing a risk to high-speed rail operations. This paper develops a Probabilistic Risk Analysis (PRA) model based on the information available from the field and the literature. The model enables a quantitative assessment of the probability of ballast particle displacement at a particular position on the track, as well as the probabilistic distribution of the total number of ballast particles that are expected to move. The model accounts for various risk factors, such as train speed, ballast gradation, and track position. The model application is illustrated using a ballasted track on the Yellow River Bridge on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line in China. The analysis finds that flying ballast probability increases when train speed increases, in particular, the problem of flying ballast becomes more pronounced when train speed exceeds 350 km per hour (217 miles per hour). Flying ballast probability might be reduced when the ballast profile is lower, given all else being equal. In addition, flying ballast probability is expected to be higher at the center of the track than in other positions. The proposed risk model can be further developed and ultimately be used to evaluate route-specific flying ballast risk, enabling the identification, assessment, and comparison of risk mitigation strategies in order to support emerging high-speed rail operations.


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  • Accession Number: 01675373
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 2 2018 3:06PM