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The rail industry has long recognised the challenges presented by mud pumping and how to manage it. Left untreated it can result in track geometry problems, higher frequency maintenance requirements, and permanent speed restrictions (slow orders) being imposed.
What causes Mud-Pumping
Mud pumping, also known as subgrade pumping, has always been a problem in ballasted railroad trackbed, particularly in sections built on weakly cemented mudstones or over consolidated clays. These soils have a high shear strength and as such do not need a deep trackbed to support track loading, yet if unprotected the upper surface degrades easily when exposed directly to water. As water percolates through the ballast to the upper surface of the subgrade it will mix with particles at the surface to form a highly mobile slurry.
The open texture of ballast allows free water to come into contact with the exposed formation. When the exposed surface contains fine grained particles, these can be readily eroded by the water accumulating in the voids, forming weak, highly mobile slurry. This slurry is then ‘pumped’ up into the overlying ballast by each passing axle load. Contamination of the clean ballast layer by the fine soil particles in the slurry very quickly reduces the load-bearing properties of the ballast and leads to loss of track alignment in the affected area.
Mud pumping results in ballast failure, that weakens the track modulus, and consequentially reduces the bearing capacity. Under extreme conditions the ballast will become unmaintainable within a very short time post-installation.
A small amount of slurry can considerably reduce ballast life.
At TrackTex, we offer a range of services designed to address the challenges of mud pumping and ensure the stability and performance of your tracks. Our team of experts utilizes advanced techniques and technologies to deliver effective solutions tailored to your specific