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About MAINLINE project

Tuesday 12 March 2013, by Aymeric Boniou

MAINLINE Project results : a summary

Project results: a summary

The objective of MAINLINE was to develop methods and tools contributing to an improved railway system by taking into consideration the whole life of specific infrastructure – tunnels, bridges, track, switches, earthworks and retaining walls.

MAINLINE Final Workshop 30/09/2014 : presentations available here

Growth in demand for rail transportation across Europe is predicted to continue. Much of this growth will have to be accommodated on existing lines that contain old infrastructure. This demand will increase both the rate of deterioration of these elderly assets and the need for shorter line closures for maintenance or renewal interventions. However, interventions on elderly infrastructure will also need to take account of the need for lower economic and environmental impacts. This means that new interventions will need to be developed. In addition tools will need to be developed to inform decision makers about the economic and environmental consequences of different intervention options being considered.

MAINLINE proposed to address all these issues through a series of linked work packages that will target at least €300m per year savings across Europe with a reduced environmental footprint in terms of embodied carbon and other environmental benefits.

The objectives were to:

  • Apply new technologies to extend the life of elderly infrastructure
  • Improve degradation and structural models to develop more realistic life cycle cost and safety models
  • Investigate new construction methods for the replacement of obsolete infrastructure
  • Investigate monitoring techniques to complement or replace existing examination techniques
  • Develop management tools to assess whole life environmental and economic impact.

The consortium included leading railways, contractors, consultants and researchers from across Europe, including from both Eastern Europe and the emerging economies. Partners also bring experience on approaches used in other industry sectors which have relevance to the rail sector.

Project benefits will come from keeping existing infrastructure safely in service through the application of technologies and interventions based on life cycle considerations. Although MAINLINE focused on certain asset types, the management tools developed will be applicable across a broader asset base.

Among the activities peformed in MAINLINE, there was a test to failure of a steel truss railway bridge in Sweden. The test is described in Deliverable 1.3 “New technologies to extend the life of elderly infrastructure” and can be seen in the video below:

The project has drawn heavily on the experience of recently completed research projects such as INNOTRACK (2010) and Sustainable Bridges (2007). One example is the test to failure of a reinforced concrete railway bridge in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, which took place on July 10, 2006. It is reported in the video below and in Sustainable Bridges Deliverable 7.3: http://www.sustainablebridges.net/main.php/SB7.3.pdf?fileitem=22708646

Work progress at mid-term

During the first 18-month period of the project two benchmark reports have been published, one on new technologies to extend the life of elderly rail infrastructure and one on methods to replace obsolete infrastructure, based on questionnaires sent to European Infrastructure Managers (see Results section). Degradation models and monitoring techniques have been examined as input to a Life Cycle Assessment Tool (LCAT), which is being developed. So far a methodology has been worked out and tested. The added value of MAINLINE resides in how all the research and findings from the individual WPs are added up into the LCAT.


MAINLINE receives funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013].