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Disruptive process for the construction of railway transition zones, reducing drastically construction and maintenance costs

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DIGITALIA 2 (Disruptive process for the construction of railway transition zones, reducing drastically construction and maintenance costs)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-02-28

When a train crosses from an embankment area to a bridge, tunnel or viaduct (transition zone), there is an abrupt change in vertical stiffness, accelerating track degradations and generating vibrations. Hence, the embankment at transition zones are constructed differently to the rest of the track, using cement treated soil to constitute a wedge shaped backfill. However, this construction is complex, uncertain and time-consuming, while not completely solving the vertical stiffness transition. Consequently, maintenance needs of transition zones are up to 6 times higher than regular tracks, requiring yearly about 471M€ (10% EU investment in track maintenance), while only accounting for 2,8% of total length.
TORRESCAMARA has developed DIGITALIA, an innovative solution for transition zones based on precast concrete slabs that properly smooth vertical stiffness and maintain this performance over time, with the aim of:
1) Simplifying and speeding up the construction process,
2) Reducing costs of the construction process,
3) Reducing maintenance operation needs
4) Reducing the associated vibrations to improve passenger comfort.
WP 1:
• Task 1.1: Design of DIGITALIA solution for Suria section. Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%. Initially the assembly of the prototype was planned in Suria(Barcelona), however it was finally executed in a section of the FGV road in Teulada (Alicante).
• Task 1.2: Production, transport and stock management of the slabs. Estimate: 100%. Actually: 100%.
• Task 1.3: Installation system including advanced sensoring system. Estimate: 100%. Actually: 100%.
• Task 1.4: Preliminary validation test. Estimate: 100%. Actually: 100%.
• Task 1.5: Final demonstration test Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.

WP 2:
• Task 2.1: Specification analysis phase. Estimate: 100%. Actually 100%.
• Task 2.2: Development of new design software for DIGITALIA. Estimate: 100%. Actually100%.
• Task 2.3: Testing of software. Estimate: 100%. Actually 100%.
• Task 2.4: Software launch and fixation of errors. Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished 100%.

WP 3:
• Task 3.1: Identification of variables to consider when optimizing DIGITALIA in different scenarios. Estimate: 100%. Actually 100%.
• Task 3.2: Design check and constructability evaluation. Estimate: 100%. Actually 100%.
• Task 3.3: Draw up requirements for manufacturing specifications DIGITALIA slabs: Estimation: 100%. Actually: 100%.

WP4:
• Task 4.1: Define an optimized configuration of DIGITALIA for a given scenario: Compliance estimation: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 4.2: Production of slabs. Compliance estimation : 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 4.3 : Transport, stock management and installation of the manufactured slabs. Compliance estimation : 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 4.4: Demonstration of optimized DIGITALIA construction process. Compliance estimation: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.

WP 5:
• Task 5.1: Updated business innovation plan. Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 5.2: Dissemination activities. Compliance estimate 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.

WP 6:
• Task 6.1: Technical coordination. Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 6.2: Administrative management. Compliance estimate: 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
• Task 6.3: Quality Monitoring and Risk Assessment. Compliance estimate 100%. Actually accomplished: 100%.
Completing both European high speed and priority freight corridor networks, and assuming maintenance costs of these new railway lines, are big challenges as the economic resources are limited. WIth this aim, the Project DIGITALIA is focused on the development of a precast concrete slabs arranged into rows, defining a succession of “steps” in transition zones as part of the embankment, minimizing in addition settlements and maintenance tasks required by the current transition designs. This is made possible because, as a part of the embankment, these slabs increase earthwork overall vertical stiffness gradually.

Current solutions, besides not solving the technical problem, require a restrictive (depending on weather conditions), complex (construction in layers with restrictions on the equipment that can be employed) and time-consuming (reaching up to 90 days) construction process. Consequently, railway construction companies often suffer unexpected increase in costs due to the increase in time and resources needed (up to 20.000€/transition zone, +32% of initially considered construction cost), as well as facing penalties up to 180.000€/km for delivering the project behind schedule. When a project reaches this situation, the expected economic benefits just vanish, even economic losses occur. These facts shows the main advantages of the solution developed by TORRESCAMARA, which involves a faster, cheaper and technically competitive solution.

As we want DIGITALIA to be implemented on contracts and projects that are going to be executed we need to gain customer confidence, especially by direct contact through our experts who can assist them and solve their problems. We will always offer a high quality and reliable service, supported by the possibility of guided on-site visits to our real-scale demonstration elements in a highly demanding operational environment. This is one of the expected results, to demonstrate potential users of the solution that it is a high quality solution by means of visits to the already executed demonstrator.

Through the implementation of DIGITALIA, both rail infrastructure managers and construction companies will experience important savings. The estimations on construction costs considered are based on our own experience as a construction company. Maintenance needs and its associated costs of all possible transition zones using current granular wedges at different European countries is based on information from railway infrastructure managers and other experts in the field. Considering an average transition zone, the construction costs for the works carried out using DIGITALIA would be around 41.500€/unit, 54% lower than current solutions.

Other potential impact of the project is that, DIGITALIA will smooth the transition of stiffness between embankment and concrete structures, a significant reduction of maintenance costs at transition zones, reaching similar values to those of an open/regular track. Transition zones are always present when constructing new railway lines. Data related to the number of structures (bridges, tunnels, culverts, underpass...) along railway lines in several countries in Europe has been studied, resulting in a ratio of 140 transition structures per 100 km of track. Considering this ratio of transition zones (2.8% of the total network length) and the foreseen construction of 30.072 km conventional line and 10.127 high speed lines in Europe, the potential savings derived from implementing DIGITALIA along the new lines constructed by 2030 are of around 2.871 M€ in construction works and 174 M€ /year in maintenance operations.
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