Long-term performance of geotechnical transport infrastructure

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment

Abstract

Field monitoring has provided many important insights into the real behaviour of geotechnical transport infrastructure such as embankments, tunnels and retained or battered cuts, resolving uncertainties for research, design, construction control or economic purposes. Where such monitoring is carried out, it is usually over a relatively short period of time for example during construction or in connection with a specific maintenance or remediation requirement. Professor Robert Mair's March 2006 Rankine lecture demonstrated the value of longer term field measurements, which may indicate unexpected and unforeseen continuing changes in the behaviour and condition of the infrastructure and the state of the surrounding ground. As the owners and custodians of our transport infrastructure seek to extend its economical life through sometimes extensive in-service maintenance and refurbishment, an understanding of the factors governing its long-term behaviour and state will become increasingly important.In recent years, the Geomechanics Research Group at the University of Southampton has installed loggable instrumentation in connection with a number of research projects to investigate the performance during and for a short period after construction of geotechnical structures such as slopes and retaining walls for transport infrastructure. In some cases, this instrumentation is still in place and working, offering a unique opportunity to continue monitoring to gain an insight into the long-term performance of the structures as equilibrium conditions are gradually reached, perhaps in response to new or unforeseen boundary conditions such as changing climate patterns and groundwater conditions or further construction nearby. The proposed research offers the opportunity to answer some questions concerning the long-term performance of geotechnical transportation infrastructure whose answers have remained elusive for decades. These are the potential for the re-establishment of in situ lateral stresses on retaining structures in overconsolidated deposits; the interpretation of strain gauge readings in underground concrete structures as the concrete ages; the impact of cyclic seasonal variations on the stability of unreinforced and remediated cutting and embankment slopes; and the interactions between buried structures and the groundwater regime. All of these will have major benefits in terms of the design of new infrastructure and predicting the service life and impacts of climate change on existing structures.

Publications

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Briggs K (2013) Wet winter pore pressures in railway embankments in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Geotechnical Engineering

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Briggs K (2013) Managing the extent of tree removal from railway earthwork slopes in Ecological Engineering

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Clarke D (2010) Effects of climate change on cycles of wetting and drying in engineered clay slopes in England in Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology

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Espindola Garcia G (2017) Thick film sensors for soil measurements.

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Glendinning S (2015) Research-informed design, management and maintenance of infrastructure slopes: development of a multi-scalar approach in IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science

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Smethurst J (2017) Current and future role of instrumentation and monitoring in the performance of transport infrastructure slopes in Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology

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Smethurst JA (2010) Understanding the behaviour of embankments in Railway Strategies Magazine

 
Description Field monitoring has provided many important insights into the real behaviour of geotechnical transport infrastructure such as embankments, tunnels and retained or battered cuts, resolving uncertainties for research, design, construction control or economic purposes. Where such monitoring is carried out, it is usually over a relatively short period of time, for example during construction or in connection with a specific maintenance or remediation requirement. Professor Robert Mair's March 2006 Rankine lecture demonstrated the value of longer term field measurements, which may indicate unexpected and unforeseen continuing changes in the behaviour and condition of the infrastructure and the state of the surrounding ground. As the owners and custodians of our transport infrastructure seek to extend its economical life through sometimes extensive in-service maintenance and refurbishment, an understanding of the factors governing its long-term behaviour and state will become increasingly important.

In recent years, the Geomechanics Research Group at the University of Southampton has installed loggable instrumentation in connection with a number of research projects to investigate the performance during and for a short period after construction of geotechnical structures such as slopes and retaining walls for transport infrastructure. In some cases, this instrumentation was (and still is) in place and working, offering a unique opportunity to continue monitoring to gain an insight into the long-term performance of the structures as equilibrium conditions are gradually reached, perhaps in response to new or unforeseen boundary conditions such as changing climate patterns and groundwater conditions or further construction nearby.

The research carried out in this project has investigated a number of questions concerning the long-term performance of geotechnical transportation infrastructure whose answers have remained elusive. These are the potential for re-establishment of in situ lateral soil stresses on retaining structures in overconsolidated deposits; the interpretation of strain gauge readings in underground concrete structures as the concrete ages; the impact of cyclic seasonal variations on the stability of unreinforced and remediated cutting and embankment slopes; and the interactions between buried structures and the groundwater regime. The findings have major benefits in terms of the design of new infrastructure and predicting the service life and impacts of climate (and climate change) on existing structures.
Exploitation Route The beneficiaries of the research will be the custodians, owners and users of the infrastructure through both reduced costs and increased availability, utility and longevity of the assets. The long-term observation of a number of geotechnical structures has revealed important insights into their performance that had not necessarily been foreseen or expected. Some of the findings of the research will feed directly into improved design and construction approaches for new infrastructure.

The work is also of immense benefit to the research community, through the generation and publication of new case study data that can be used by others to assess and benchmark new methods of analysis and design.
Sectors Construction,Environment,Transport

 
Description The results of this project have been used to provide information for the updated Construction Industry Research and Information Association reports on groundwater control (issued in 2016 as C750) and embedded retaining walls (published in 2016 as C760).
Sector Construction,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description CIRIA RP1065 launch seminar (slope engineering)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Contribution to McNaughton report on target cost of GB railway electrification
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Contributed to a report commissioned by DfT HS2 Phase 2 and NPR Sponsor who sought advice on what the cost of main line electrification, needed to permit through running of HS2 services on certain routes, ought to be and what changes would be necessary to achieve it. Southampton is the only university cited in the report, for its analysis that "provided the compelling evidence to support the empirically sound long established "ORE" method rather than some recent attempts at limit state geotechnical approaches." The paper overall argues that the cost of electrification can be better than halved from the costs that were experienced on the Great Western Electrification Programme, and the work done at Southampton makes a very significant contribution to the saving. The impact is likely to be a change of strategy by DfT to enable wider electrification, with a saving in cost to the public purse and environmental benefits by reducing use of diesel fuel. There are positive implications for the construction industry and greatly increased productivity in the installation of foundations.
 
Description RIA Electrification Cost Challenge
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Cited and quoted in a review by the UK rail supply body into ways of reducing the cost of railway electrification. The document finds that using the design method justified by research at Southampton, foundation depths can be generally halved with cost and productivity benefits that are more than merely in proportion. The document includes a case study in which a collaboration between Network Rail, two SMEs, a large corporation and the University of Southampton led to a design saving that avoided major works due to electrification estimated at £10M - £15M, instead costing £1M, at a single bridge in Cardiff. The overall benefit of the package of measures recommended in the review is to bring costs down from the region of £2.5M/single track kn to £1M/stkm, against an annual output in excess of 100km/annum.
URL http://www.riagb.org.uk/RIA/Newsroom/Stories/Electrification_Cost_Challenge_Report.aspx
 
Description EPSRC Centre Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L01582X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2019
 
Description EPSRC Responsive Mode (Project: Earth and water pressures on the base of ground-contacting slabs within deep basement structures)
Amount £100,174 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K02521X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2013 
End 04/2015
 
Description EPSRC Responsive Mode (Project: Rooting for Sustainable Performance)
Amount £615,038 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 10/2019
 
Description EPSRC Responsive Mode (Project: iSMART - Infrastructure slopes: sustainable management and resilience assessment)
Amount £1,671,674 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K027050/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 01/2017
 
Description Full scale trials of innovative track systems
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Network Rail Ltd 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description UKCRIC Pump Priming Panel July 2017
Amount £1,013,092 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R013535/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2019
 
Description Network Rail Ltd Strategic University Partnership 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Expertise, intellectual input, research project management and the training of doctoral students. Access to data, equipment and facilities, and securing third party laboratory services. Serving on industry expert committee and providing advice on an ad-hoc basis. Guiding the preparation of good practice guides and new design standard.
Collaborator Contribution Programme management and in-house champions for the research. Pathways to impact.
Impact Guide to Track Stiffness ISBN: 9780854329946 (2016) Guide to the effects of debris accumulations at river bridges ISBN: 9781912431052 (2019). [Also reported via NERC project NE/R009015/1.] Network Rail Specification NR/L2/CIV/074 Design and Installation of Overhead Line Foundations (2017) PhD theses: M Potticary; L Rorke; A Roberts; Reports on ballast migration, soil water sensors, fibre reinforced ballast, shallow under track crossings, carbon fibre reinforcement of cast iron bridge beams. Instrumentation of railway bridge for long term monitoring of interaction performance of earthworks and bridge. 5 current PhD studentships.
Start Year 2012
 
Description CIRIA research project launch seminar (slope engineering) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A half-day seminar launching CIRIA's research project RP1065, "Engineered and natural slopes - protection and stabilisation systems." Speakers from geotechnical industry, consultants, Network Rail and HS2, and academia including William Powrie. This launch event will lead to a series of roundtables and workshops over the course of 2018 to identify, categorise and prioritise future good practice research in slope engineering and management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Distinguished Lecture by Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The University hosted a Distinguished Lecture by alumnus Andrew Wolstenholme, OBE, the Chief Executive of Crossrail, on the project and generated a discussion about the better management of major engineering projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description ICSGE 2015, Singapore 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prof Powrie gave a keynote lecture on discrete passive piles for infrastructure slope stabilization to international conference in Singapore.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.geoss.sg/icsge2015/tp.html
 
Description InnoTrans 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Very large international exhibition and conference. Purpose was to raise awareness of the role of university research in innovation and development in the railway industry, and of how to engage. Several thousand delegates attended and the UK Secretary of State for Transport visited out stand.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.innotrans.com
 
Description Interview with Paul Clifton for Rail magazine 2013 (climate change) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Prof Powrie was interviewed and extensively quoted in an article by the BBC's transport correspondent, Paul Clifton, in the large circulation railway general interest magazine "RAIL". Reference was made to TRACK21, work on vegetation and embankment stability, and also on long term data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description MAFEX Spanish railways visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Fact finding visit by Spanish railway industry delegates to find how the UK industry and academia engage. They were given presentations on engineering research and education at Southampton, and on the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network, and a tour of facilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description NR SUP group presentation week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participated in a five day event hosted by Network Rail at their Milton Keynes HQ. We presented practical outcomes and ongoing research with an emphasis on monitoring railway linear infrastructure. We participated in an exhibition during the week and made some contacts for further discussion and support for site monitoring.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description PWI Wessex region 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Local branch meeting of the Permanent Way Institute, to increase their understanding of and engagement with research in the railway industry. Title was Railway track and related infrastructure research at the University of Southampton. Enhanced the reputation of the University, gave the practitioners insights into the science underlying several of their practices, and helped them identify problem areas. Distributed copies of the Guide to Track Stiffness, authored by the University in a cross-industry working group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at COST Action TU1202 final conference, Paris. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The presentation given as part of the final dissemination conference for EU COST Action TU1202 on climate impacts on infrastructure slopes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Dundee Roots Group meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Two presentations on slope stability related research work were given to the 'Dundee Roots Group', which includes practitioners, academics, members of James Hutton Institute, and postgraduate students with an interest in plant root systems for agriculture and engineering.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description RTRI Japan track engineers' workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hosted a workshop on railway track maintenance, with 5 papers by University of Southampton, 3 by other UK universities and 8 by Japanese delegates. The purpose was to advance knowledge and improve practice in the engineering of ballasted railway track. The papers were subsequently circulated to all delegates and more widely shared in the Rail Technical Research Institute, Japan.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Rail Review: Paul Clifton on transport policy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Prof Powrie was interviewed by the respected journalist Paul Clifton, the only academic among other senior figures in transport, for a substantial article in Rail Review on how the UK's infrastructure will be affected by a rapidly evolving society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://t2f.org.uk/wp-content/blogs.dir/sites/5/2018/01/Q2-2017-Clifton-A-Vision-for-Transport-1.pdf
 
Description SOTSEF 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The annual Southampton Science and Engineering Day attracted 7,000 visitors in 2017. Some 140 interactive exhibits and activities, run by hundreds of staff and student volunteers, make this an important outreach targeting primarily school age children to interest them in a future in science and engineering. Several exhibits have a railway or geotechnical theme, including custard rolling, experiments on railway noise and vibration using lego, tribology, railway networks and engineering using railway models and Minecraft, wind tunnels, anechoic and reverberant chambers, and many more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.southampton.ac.uk/per/university/festival/index.page
 
Description Science and Engineering Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This is a major "open day" event aimed attracting some 4,000 people to the main campus. Most are children of primary or secondary school age. A wide range of interactive, "hands-on" engineering and science activities is presented over six hours by undergrad and postgrad volunteers. In 2014, we won a National Science and Engineering Week award for Best STEM institution event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
URL http://www.southampton.ac.uk/per/university/festival/index.page
 
Description Slope Engineering and Geotech Asset Management Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Speaking at a two-day conference bringing together asset owners, engineers and contractors to share best practice in solving recent failures and discuss solutions for futureproofing assets. The subject was "the role of technology in managing geotechnical assets and mitigating risks on the UK rail network."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description UKRRIN 2018 conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact National conference of railway industry and researchers. The conference is a pathway to impact. Opportunity for researchers to present current activities, industry to present on requirements, and identification of opportunities to take research up the TRL scale. There is an exhibition during which there are networking opportunities. We were able to engage with new potential partners and reinforce existing relationships. One plenary presentation by Southampt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ukrrin.org.uk/ukrrin-celebrates-first-annual-conference-bringing-rail-industry-and-academ...
 
Description Uniwin lecture 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prestige lecture at Institution of Civil Engineers: Transitions, Disruptors and the Quest for Sustainability (William Powrie). Some new technologies disrupt, and even those that do not often require complicated, systems-level transitions that are difficult to achieve quickly. The lecture illustrated these points with examples from energy and resource / waste management. It then critically assessed two ongoing efforts to achieve transformational change in transport: railway electrification and decarbonising our cities. Systemic failings
that have hindered success were identified. The lecture then discussed what we need from research if we are to do better in realising the benefits of technology in the future, while balancing the often-conflicting goals of affordability, equitability, improved environmental sustainability and quality of life.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description iSMART end of project workshop and disemination event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact iSMART end of project workshop and disemination event. Presentations to Project Partners and other stakeholders on the final research outcomes from the project. On going discussions with HS2 about a follow-on project, to understand the implications of the research for their needs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017