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How can the deterioration of ballast profiles on high-speed train tracks be reduced?

Aqua-Rail, a simple and highly effective solution

On ballasted railway tracks, especially those used by high-speed trains, the ballast is subject to modifications – creep between sleepers, projections, and ballast shoulder sinking – due to the aerodynamic effects generated by their ever-increasing speed.

The consequences can be substantial, since beyond the obvious danger presented by these phenomena, they can also seriously deteriorate the rolling stock (impacts on bodywork and windows), the infrastructures (rails and fastenings) and the track itself.

Two subsidiaries of the French group Colas joined forces to develop Aqua-Rail. Together, Colas Rail, a railway works company, and INMS, an applied environmental chemistry industrial eco-lab, came up with some innovative concepts to assist network operators and meet their demand for improvements in maintenance and operations.

What is Aqua-Rail?

Aqua-Rail is an organic mineral binder in an aqueous phase, produced by soft or “green” chemistry and dissolved in water. It is specially formulated to set or fix the upper layer of ballast. This type of chemistry enables organic or biological components, which are generally heat-fragile, to be bound or combined with minerals.

Aqua-Rail’s qualities and environmental performance

Aqua-Rail was the subject of an environmental characterisation conducted with INERIS, France’s National Industrial Environment and Risks Institute, which attested to its environmental qualities.

It is not considered dangerous for human beings or the environment, as stipulated in the EC Directive 199/45/CE and the EC regulation 1272/2008 (CLP).

Aqua-Rail’s strengths


reduces, and can even totally prevent, ballast projections,

stabilises the transitions between tracks on concrete slabs and ballasted tracks,

stabilises the ballast shoulder,

increases the stability of the ballasted track, which in turn increases the intervals between tamping operations

temporarily protects the ballast profile during works periods

improves the quality of the rail creeping area,

cleans by aspiration

its application facilitates all conventional tamping and track levelling operations.

Network operators’ maintenance departments have shown great interest in Aqua-Rail. It has been tested on both dedicated (segregated running) sites and high-speed train sites, and demonstrated that 0.7 litre per square metre is sufficient to make the operation financially attractive. Aqua-Rail can also improve train speeds on ballasted tracks at a reasonable cost.

Colas Rail’s specialised teams can apply the product in one-off operations or use a dedicated train to apply it over substantial lengths of track.

If you have any questions, please contact the Colas Rail’s Technical Management team.






Colas Rail

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