Longitudinal defect of rail in bridge transition zones

Study level



Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


External supervisors

  • Bill Weston, Regional Infrastructure Manager, QR


Rail bridge transition zone is vulnerable to several early life damages: (1) dip/ hanging sleepers; (2) track buckling; & (3) Rail pull-apart (fracture) - the first is caused by vertical impact forces coused by passing trains and the second and the third are caused by extreme weather followed by severe braking/ traction actions of trains imparting longitudinal forces. Transition zones, therefore, require high level of maintenance. There are no automated inspection system currently available and hence only manual inspections are currently performed, which is time consuming and error prone. This project aims at developing an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of formation of track buckle/ rail fracture in bridge transition zones through finite element analysis and field data collection.

Research activities

UG Honours (Final Year Thesis) Students will firest carry out a thorough literature review and then develop simplified FE models and calibrate the model using field data. They will then run the model for varied parameters that affect the longitudinal performance of transition zones.

Vacation Research Students also will do similar to Honours students, but with very limited scope of a 2D FE model.

PhD students will develop highly nonlinear FE model allowing for material and geometric nonlinearities; they also will take part in field experiments an use the data to validate the nonlinear 3D FE model. They will develop useable charts for ease of maintenance of bridge transition zones for longitudinal defects.


  • The aim is to understand the longitudinal damages to track and rail in rail bridge transition zones.
  • The outcome is in the form of design charts for ease of maintenance.

Skills and experience

  • Civil/ Structural or Mechanical Engineering Students for VRS & Honours Research (Final Year Project EGH400-1 and 2)
  • Civil/ Structural or Mechanical Engineering Graduates with relevant master degree holding journal publication and high command of English for PhD admission


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.