Geotechnical Society of Edmonton

NEWS 2013

Posted November 25, 2012 (Updated March 12, 2013)

Event: March 19, 2013 (TBC)

GSE: Prof. Michael Hendry, U of A - Research to Facilitating the Management of Railway Ground Hazards

Location: Lecture Theatre L036, Engineering Technology Annex, NAIT

Time: 11:45am - 1:30pm

Cost: $10 Members, $15 Non-Members, $5 Students

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With 48,000 kilometers of track, Canada has one of the longest rail networks in the world. Canadians and the Canadian economy depend on the railway system for the transportation of people and freight. As measured by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, rail is by far the safest means of ground transportation in Canada (Railway Association of Canada, However, due to the geographic diversity of Canada, climatic extremes, and active geological processes, Canada’s rail infrastructure is exposed to infrequent but potentially dangerous natural (ground) hazards. These ground hazards include landslides, erosion, subsidence, avalanches, and frost, among other hazards. These hazards have the potential to result in track failure or make tracks unsafe at the posted speed, and therefore they pose a risk to the safety and operation of Canada’s railways. Ground hazard incidents represent up to 12% of all engineering-related issues, and due to their high cost-per-accident they account for as much as 25% of the cost of engineering-related losses and track outages.

The University of Alberta’s recent history of research with the railway industry began as a member of the Railway Ground Hazard Research Program (RGHRP) (est. 2003). The RGHRP was initiated by Transport Canada (TC), Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) to provide focused research to facilitate for the management of the risks posed by ground hazards to the railways. The RGHRP program is ongoing and has been very successful. More recently, this partnership has been expanded with the founding of the Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL) at the University of Alberta. The purpose of CaRRL is to develop a long term research facility for the railway industry, building upon the strength of the University of Alberta’s geotechnical program.

This presentation to the Geotechnical Society of Edmonton will present some of the geotechnical challenges faced by the railway industry and the research being conducted at the University of Alberta to facilitate the management of risks posed by these ground hazards.

Dr. Michael Hendry's research with the railway industry started as a Master student working with Northern Ireland Railways on projects relating to slope stability and the cyclic loading of embankments over soft peat foundations. This came about as a result of an exchange of graduate students between the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and Queens University Belfast.

After completing his MSc, Michael continued working towards a PhD with supervisors at both the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta (completed 2011), where he continued his studies into “the geomechanical behaviour of rail-track structures constructed over soft peat foundations”. This research included the measurement of the response of peat to the application of cyclic heavy axle loads and investigating the material properties of peat which contribute to this response.

Michael is continuing his research at the University of Alberta as Associate Director of the newly founded Canadian Rail Research Laboratory (CaRRL). In 2012 Michael was became an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta where is conducting fundamental research into geotechnical issues which pose threats to railway infrastructure.


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