Britpave: The British In-Situ Concrete Paving Association

New slab track design guidance

29th November 2016


New guidance for the design of low noise and low vibration slab track has been published by the infrastructure group Britpave. The ‘General Guidance for the Design of Low Noise and Low Vibration Slab Track’ has been developed by Britpave member Arup and the Britpave Rail Task Group. It examines potential noise and vibration sources and provides advice on a range of options for the control of airborne noise and of vibration.

The guidance highlights that slab track offers both opportunities and risks in terms of environmental noise relative to traditional ballast track and demonstrates that the optimum low noise design for surface operation and tunnel operation is different to the optimum solution for tunnel or bridge/viaduct operation.

For surface operation any noise increase can be mitigated by regular rail maintenance grinding, optimisation of the rail fastening system to increase the rail decay rate, incorporation of absorbing material on the slab or screening with conventional noise barriers or with novel design of the slab profile.

For tunnelled railways, rail roughness is also important. It is possible to influence the quality of the railway in terms of its roughness during slab track construction using ‘top down’ techniques. Slab track also offers many opportunities to incorporate vibration isolation in the system without significant increase in construction depth.

On bridges and viaducts, the guidance explains how the slab track design must be optimised to determine the balance between noise radiated from the track and from the bridge or viaduct structure itself.

Commenting on the new guidance, Heather Ceney, chair of the Britpave Rail Task Group said: “Noise and vibration can result in annoyance and sleep disturbance. It is therefore important that there is consideration is given to reducing this potential nuisance. The steps examined in this new guidance will help to reduce both noise and vibration.”

Copies of ‘General Guidance for the design of low noise and low vibration slab track’ are available from the publication section of the Britpave website,, free for members, £10 for non-members.