Major research studies considering the European railways have been conducted, e.g. HISPEEDMIX, SAMRAIL, NEW OPERA, MODTRAIN. The SUSTAINABLE BRIDGE and INNOTRACK projects of the few that specifically considered ageing rail infrastructure, either bridges exclusively (in the case of the former) or within a very broad range of issues including buildings, signalling, track, bridges etc (in the latter). The SMARTRail project focuses on the heavy civil engineering infrastructure (such as bridges, tunnels, rail track and slopes) associated with ageing rail networks. Each element represents a very high cost item (usually quantified in millions of Euro) and unplanned replacement of any single element would cause unacceptable delays for the network (generally measured in months).
The SMARTRail concept is to provide a whole life cycle tool which will allow infrastructure operators to optimize the existing, ageing European rail infrastructure and ensure it remains operable into the future in the context of:
1.Increased traffic volume and loading with particular consideration for increased freight capacity.The techniques must consider the effects of changing climate on infrastructure, for example; incidents of flooding causing accelerated scour of bridge foundations, high intensity rainfall events causing slope failures and freeze thaw causing damage to bridge and tunnel structures.
2.The SMART Rail consortium brings together experts in the fields of infrastructure assessment in the road and rail industries, national infrastructure operators and specialist SME’s to achieve these critical aims.