Most British railway embankments were constructed between 120 and 180 years ago without the benefit of modern design and construction methods. This can result in undesirable load-deformation characteristics and consequent disruption to present-day railway operations, for which there is unprecedented demand. Annual rail passenger kilometres have approximately doubled in the last 20 years and freight has increased by 60% over the same period. Whereas elements such as rails or bridges can be refurbished or replaced to meet increasing demand, the same is not usually feasible for embankments. Development of techniques to assess embankment performance risks posed by operational capacity enhancements is therefore of increasing significance to railway geotechnical asset management. The two case studies presented in this paper demonstrate how geospatial analysis and data management techniques may be applied to this challenge at both strategic (regional or national) and tactical (site-specific) scales for embankments incorporating plastic clay fill. The case studies also demonstrate, in a world of ever more abundant data, the growing need for engineering geologists and geotechnical engineers to augment their traditional knowledge with comprehensive data management and geospatial analysis skills, these being essential for modern infrastructure asset management.
Thematic collection: This article is part of the ‘Ground-related risk to transportation infrastructure’ collection available at: https://www.lyellcollection.org/cc/Ground-related-risk-to-transportation-infrastructure