Role of vegetation in the stability and servicibility of railway embankments

The majority of the UK's railway system was constructed more than 100 years ago. Since construction, the earth structures, and particularly the embankments, have been prone to poor performance and occasional collapse. Poor performance, or serviceability failure, results in poor ride quality, expensive maintenance and sometimes speed restriction. Catastrophic collapse may be sudden, raising serious safety concerns, and usually requires expensive emergency repair works. Recent research has identified the mechanisms responsible for excessive seasonal movement and the eventual failure of embankments constructed of highly plastic overconsolidated clays. These mechanisms have been shown to be dependent on the vegetation present on the embankment slopes. The paper describes the performance and analysis of typical railway embankments and in particular those located in Southern England. The fundamental behaviour of the vegetation and its interaction with the soil is discussed. The role of vegetation in the development of the mechanisms leading to serviceability failure due to excessive seasonal movements and eventually catastrophic collapse are described. Numerical analyses of an instrumented London Underground Limited (LUL) embankment are presented that clearly demonstrate the role of vegetation. Finally, some recommendations are made to assist in the management of vegetation on railway embankments.

  • Availability:
  • Authors:
    • RUSSELL, D
    • ELLIS, E
    • O''BRIEN, A
  • Publication Date: 2000


  • English

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01011800
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • ISBN: 0-947644-43-1
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Dec 19 2005 3:32PM