Reinforced concrete bridges under increased railway traffic loads: fatigue behaviour and safety measures

The aim of this thesis is to provide rational engineering methods for the fatigue safety examination of existing railway bridges. Increasing railway traffic loading and enhanced structural analysis allow for higher exploitation of the capacity of bridge elements. This implies that increasing action effects due to higher service loads may become fatigue relevant in the future. The application of the results allows for more precise fatigue examinations. As beneficial consequence, most railway bridges may be operated safely in the future without costly strengthening measures. Calculated stress ranges in the reinforcement that governs the fatigue resistance of structural elements are too high when using conventional resistance models. The load carrying contribution of non-structural elements and a not entirely developed crack pattern lead to fatigue relevant reduction of the stress range in the rebars. A theoretical study shows that reductions of 5 – 15 % may be obtained by considering the composite effect of the continuous rail grid. Measurements of the dynamic traffic effects were conducted on a single-track bridge. The effects of passenger and freight trains at different velocities on the structural response were measured. The results are interpreted based on the observed vertical shape of the railway track. The observed dynamic behaviour could be correctly represented by simulations using simple dynamic models. The effect of other velocities and in-creased carriage loading degrees are investigated in a parametric study. The findings of previous investigations for road bridges and the investigations of this research work for railway bridges show that the Dynamic Amplification Factor (DAF) decreases for increasing loadings. Thus, smaller DAFs are applied for fatigue relevant causing heavy vehicles. Fatigue stress ranges may be reduced by supplementary 3 – 6 %. A method based on Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics theory is presented for fatigue life determination. Fatigue life typically is very sensitive to different calculation parameters, rendering the calculation of a reliable fatigue life difficult. The refined analysis of fatigue tests reported in literature allows better understanding of the fatigue behaviour of bridge elements. Thus, a fatigue safety concept is established that compensates the inconvenience of the high sensitivity of fatigue life calculations. This fatigue safety concept is based on the observed load carrying behaviour of inspected bridge elements. The specific fatigue behaviour with visible signs allows for the examination of fatigue safety in a pragmatic way. Specific inspection of bridge elements becomes pertinent as soon as general examinations exhibit an insufficient fatigue resistance. Fatigue behaviour of Ultra-High Performance Fibre Reinforced Concretes (UHPFRC) is characterised by increasing deformations during cyclic tensile loading. Under a maximum tensile stress level of 4 MPa the deformation of the UHPFRC layer becomes stable during cyclic loading. For slightly higher stresses, the deformation increases and the UHPFRC layer fails due to steel fibre pull out. Application of the UHPFRC layer in the flexural tension zone considerably reduces the fatigue stresses in the steel reinforcement. As the UHPFRC layer deforms, the stress range in the reinforcement is effectively and permanently reduced and may remain below the nominal fatigue limit. For design of members with a layer of UHPFRC for waterproofing and fatigue strengthening, the maximum allowed strain for stable behaviour under tensile fatigue loading should be verified.

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