Britpave: The British In-Situ Concrete Paving Association


These web pages reproduce the executive summary of the Britpave publication Slabtrack Safety – A Scoping Study.

Visit the Britpave Shop to purchase Slabtrack Safety – A Scoping Study as a hard copy (free to Britpave members)

Executive Summary

This report summarises the findings of a scoping exercise for slab track safety research carried out by Ove Arup & Partners Ltd on behalf of Britpave (the British In-situ Concrete Paving Association). The commission for the scoping exercise was awarded by Britpave in September 2002 to aid the development of a case highlighting slab track safety in order to gain support for the application of slab track on the UK rail network.

The objectives of the ‘Slab Track Safety Scoping Study’ were to:

  1. Identify existing research into issues relating to the safety of slab track vs. ballasted track;
  2. Identify areas where further research could be of benefit to Britpave in their promotion of slab track in the UK.

The study has identified that, although it is generally accepted in the rail industry that slab track provides benefits in terms of safety when compared with traditional ballasted forms, little substantive research or evidence is available to support this.

It is recommended that a risk-based structure be adopted as a framework for the safety case for slab track. The tolerable failure rates for the existing UK track could be developed by, for example, assessing the ultimate consequences of track failure. This would determine the rate at which track failures can be tolerated per km per annum. A similar approach can be taken to accidents occurring during maintenance work.

The developed safety case should be supported by evidence and research into slab track safety. The following areas of further work have been identified by the study:

  1. The principal strength of slab track that could promote its application as a safer alternative to ballast lies in the reduced on-track maintenance time and consequently reduced risk to workers. This study has identified hazard exposure of workers as the key area where further work could support the safety case.
  2. In addition it is recommended that an analysis of UK track faults, to identify what proportion would be preventable by application of slab track, may also yield positive results.

To further both these arguments, it is recommended that a case study model should be developed, which would use an existing UK line to illustrate the potential safety benefits of a slab track installation. It is suggested that three scenarios could be modelled:

  • High speed intensive service e.g. Euston to Rugby;
  • Heavy freight e.g. Doncaster to Immingham;
  • Intensive suburban e.g. London Bridge to East Croydon.