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Simulation of Bridge Vibrations Induced by High Speed Train Passages

Dr. Rainer Flesch, Arsenal Research GmbH., Faradaygasse 3, A-1030 Vienna, Austria
DI Roman Geier, Arsenal Research GmbH., Faradaygasse 3, A-1030 Vienna, Austria
Chapter 6 of the future European Code 1991-2 deals with the dynamic behaviour of railway bridges. Under certain
conditions the quasistatic method can be used to elaborate the design forces. But in many cases time history
analyses are requested, using each of 10 HSLM-A model trains and traveling speeds at regular intervals in the
speed - range 150 300 km/ h. The most important limiting factor is the allowable maximum deck acceleration,
which is a major criterion for interoperability certification.
The expense for dynamic analysis is considerable and should be limited to cases where it is absolutely
necessary. At the moment all existing experience, whether dynamic analysis is necessary or quasistatic method is
sufficient, is put together into practice oriented diagrams. Additional parametric studies will be carried out in near
future. Further, recommendations will be elaborated, whether a detailed 3D model is necessary or a beam model
can be used. It is very important to calibrate the FE models using calculated as well as measured maximum deck
accelerations. Hence, first measurements during 160 250 km/ h rides were carried out at a 3 span prestressed
RC bridge in 2002. Further measurements are planned for 2004.


Paragraph 6 of prEN 1991-2 addresses the dynamic behaviour of railway bridges. If dynamic influences are
assumed to be of minor importance, quasi-static calculations can be carried out. In this case the results of static
calculations are simply multiplied by the dynamic increment . But in many cases extensive time history
analyses are prescribed. For dynamic loading different train configurations have to be used, especially 10 HSLMA train models. In order to elaborate the worst case, the train speed is varied in the range 150 300 km/ h in 10
km/ h steps. Hence around 100 time history calculations become necessary, sometimes also in situations where
the specialist has big doubts, if such an effort is really justified. By the way, the big effort results more from
analysis and handling of the results for presentation, than from the calculations itself. Further, the greater part of
practical engineers have still their problems with advanced dynamic investigations and try to avoid such tasks as
much as possible.
Many criteria are given in prEN 1991-2 in order to decide, whether the quasistatic method can be used or a time
history analysis is necessary. The user has to follow complicated paths in a flow-chart, before he will find the right
answer. A basic criterion is the train speed, with 200 km/ h being an important mark. Further important parameters
are span lengths, type (static system) and number of spans.
The Austrian Railway Company HL-AG/ bridge department initiated an expert team for the above questions. Up to
now 5 workshops were held. The team was formed by TDV/ Graz (software developer), Kirsch Muchitsch
Partner/ Linz (consultant), Westhausser/ Salzburg (consultant), Pauser/ Wien (consultant) and arsenal research,
which carried out also the coordination. The meetings were always attended by representatives of HL-AG and
BB (Austrian Federal Railway Company).
The main task was to check the plausibility of prEN1991-2 and to look for possible simplifications. Further, some
basic work for a national guideline was done. Especially the principles for structural modelling of bridges were
highlighted. The team work focused also on the selection of adequate structural parameters, like adequate
damping ratios, elastic moduli, etc.




Selection of the calculation method

The main goal is the presentation of user friendly criteria, which allow a quick and plausible selection of the
necessary calculation method. These criteria are based on existing investigations, which were carried out within
the framework of projects, and further on the results of first parametric investigations. The main sorting criteria are
bridge type, slenderness and total mass of the bridge.
In any case it must be shown, that the first vertical modal bending frequency is within the frequency band
prescribed in the code. This can be done with any FE code and simple beam models. Also formulas from
textbooks can be used. If the modal frequency is outside of the allowed range, the bridge layout has to be
adjusted adequately.
The following 3 investigation levels are foreseen for the Austrian National Guideline.

Level I Method

In this case no calculations are necessary. The proof is based on existing knowledge. Cases are presented,
where the calculated vertical accelerations are less than the limits given in prEN1991-2 and hence a time history
analysis is not necessary. The existing knowledge (from projects + parametric studies) is shown in diagrams for
several combinations of the main sorting parameters number of tracks, material + type of cross section, static
system. The parameters used in the diagrams are total mass (horizontal axis) and max. slenderness (set of
curves). The calculated maximum vertical acceleration is given on the vertical axis. Hence, minimum mass and
maximum slenderness in order to fulfill the code requirements is easily found in the diagrams. At the moment the
existing knowledge is too less.

Level II Method

The use of simple beam models is foreseen at this level. Beam models can be used, if the bridge mainly behaves
dynamically like a beam and not like a plate. It is important to define criteria, when a full 3D model is necessary.
But for the greater part of all railway bridges probably beam models can be used. For cases coming closer to
plate behaviour, but if beam like modes are still dominating, correction factors should be applied in order to
consider contributions of vertical bending modes in transverse direction.
The Level II Method means also a powerful tool for parametric studies, since many structural variants can be
investigated in a short time. For certain variants Level II and Level III approaches should be carried out in parallel,
in order to calibrate the less accurate Level II procedures (elaboration of correction factors).
Further, it is an important mid - term goal that each practical engineer should be more or less able to carry out
dynamic calculations with beam models, even time history analyses if the input is given in a user friendly way.

Level III Method

At this level a detailed 3D model (plate model, girder grille) is used. Also the boundary conditions are modelled as
precise as possible.

The use of Level I Method

In principle the main range of all parameters, which is relevant for railway bridges, could be covered by
investigations. But at the moment it is not completely clear, if a funding for these investigations will be available.
Diagrams should be elaborated for single - span bridges, multiple - span bridges and framed viaducts. The
maximum calculated vertical acceleration is presented for certain cases with a certain total mass and
slenderness. Values in between can be interpolated. These diagrams would facilitate the design - work very


Simplification for load model HSLM B

In some cases prEN 1991-2 allows the use of load model HSLM B. This load model means a periodic load by N
axles with a distance d between each other. Hence the formula for a SDOF system can be used to calculate the
maximum (stationary) acceleration. In this formula generalized mass and generalized stiffness for the first
vertical bending mode has to be used. In many cases the time of train passage will be too short to excite the
maximum (stationary) response. Hence, the simple formula (1) can be used to estimate the relevant acceleration:

a m (t E ,i ) = (1 e

1 1 t E , i

) a m ,max


tE,i means the time of the train passage and depends on train speed, N and d.

The use of Level II Method

Dynamic analysis is carried out with beam models plus additional masses (ballast bed, etc.). A gloabal beam
model can be used, if it reflects the global behaviour in an adequate way. In cases, where a considerable local
dynamic behaviour exists (in the case of large plate fields or stiffening elements, which are sensitive to vibrations,
etc.), more sophisticated 3D models have to be used. Sometimes local areas, which are not stressed by static
loads, experience considerable dynamic stresses, if they start to vibrate (local vibrations). It is emphasized, that
the quasistatic method cannot cover this phenomenon. In this case, the only way is a dynamic design using an
adequate structural model. Hence, in the case of steel- and composite bridges, truss bridges and arch bridges
normally a Level III approach will be necessary.
In the case of concrete bridges the local vibrational behaviour is less dramatic and constructive solutions are
frequently very efficient. It is well known that directly loaded top plates of bridges with hollow girder cross section
experience considerable dynamic stresses due to vertical deformation in transverse direction, but the problem can
be solved easily by additional reinforcement. Further, cantilevered plates tend to resonance vibrations which
mean a continuous fatigue load. Results are first cracks and an increasing corrosion. Such local vibrations can
be avoided by diagonal stiffeners at adequate distances in longitudinal direction.
It is not a basic principle to treat skew bridges via the Level III Method. To some extend the global bending beam
behaviour in longitudinal direction may dominate, but skew bridges tend also to torsional modes (or vertical
modes in transverse direction, if the system is closer to a plate than to a beam). Further, skew bridges tend to
uplift from the bearings under dynamic load, but constructive countermeasures can be easily foreseen.
It is very likely, that in many cases one can elaborate simple beam models, which represent mass and stiffness of
the bridge in a very realistic way. Hence, also the calculated modes will be very realistic. In many practical cases
the vertical modes 1 3 have the greatest importance for a reliable calculation of the structural response. On one
hand, the model is kept relatively simple, on the other hand time history analyses have to be carried out, which
belong to the more sophisticated tools of structural dynamics. But nearly every FE program with dynamic
module provides also a possibility for time history analysis.
It is one basic principle to model masses (structure + permanent way) as accurate as possible. Within the Level II
method it is not necessary to model the stiffness of bearings accurately. It is advisable to use 3D beam models
and eventually to model also the torsional behaviour.
The basic proof according to prEN1991-2 is the calculation of the maximum vertical acceleration of the bridge
deck during train passage. It is assumed that vertical acceleration decreases the operational safety (e.g. track
stability in ballast bed, etc.). Two maximum values are given in the code: 3,5 m/s for bridges with ballast bed and
5 m/s for bridges without ballast bed. Again it is emphasized, that a realistic modeling of mass is very important,
since mass and maximum acceleration are always proportional inverted.
The following additional proofs are foreseen in prEN1991-2:
- dynamic increment of internal forces and displacements (paragraph

proof of safety against fatique. But according to the Austrian National Application Document this proof will
be not necessary in each single case.

Further, the following proofs are prescribed in prEN1990-2:

- vertical displacement according to paragraph prA2.
- deck torsion according to paragraph prA2., Tab. A2.7 (maximum over 3 m length)
- girder end rotation according to prA2.; EVN 1991-3: 1995
- horizontal deformation in transverse direction according to prA2., Tab. A2.8
- first horizontal bending modal frequency according to prA2.
- max. vertical displacement concerning passenger comfort (prA2.4.4.3)
The parametric investigations carried out so far focused on the vertical accelerations. The criteria given in
prEN1990-2 have been checked only in several projects, where detailed 3D models were used.
In general, it should be avoided in the future, that all proofs have to be done in each case. Some of the above
checks are very time consuming and need additional handwork (e.g. deck torsion). It would be much better to
fully elaborate the basis for the Level I method and to use for certain parameter variants (base variants)
detailed 3D models, where all above criteria are checked. For the investigations between the base variants the
Level II method could be applied
Besides the vertical accelerations, in some recent Level II investigations also maximum dynamic bending
moments, maximum displacements and maximum girder end rotations were elaborated. As a next step also the
first torsional modal frequency, the first horizontal bending modal frequency and the deformation in horizontal
direction could be calculated.
It is emphasized that torsional- and horizontal modes are only excited in the case of an eccentric dynamic loading
(e.g. bridge with more than one track). In principle, even with a beam model, the eccentric loading could be
On the whole, in order to compensate all influences, which cannot be modeled adequately with beam models,
correction factors should be applied. At the moment it is suggested to multiply accelerations, displacements,
rotations and internal forces by the factor 1,2. Improved correction factors are expected from parallel
investigations (Level II + Level III approaches).

Detailed 3D models (Level III Method)

In the case of plane load bearing bridges one has to expect vertical bending modes in longitudinal and transverse
direction with closely spaced frequencies, which are relevant for the overall dynamic response. An eccentric
loading (e.g. bridge with two tracks) can be modeled very well. Normally also the stiffness of the bearings should
be modeled as accurate as possible. For skew bridges the geometry can be considered exactly.
It is important to take the maximum acceleration only from those points, which are relevant for the track stability.
But it is an additional issue to check areas and elements, where considerable dynamic stresses will occur due to
local vibrational behaviour.
Structural models of existing structures can be considerable improved, if measured results (eigenfrequencies and
modeshapes) are available. These measured data form the basis for model updating of the first (original) model.
3D models need a much greater amount of work than beam elements. Even this type of model is only a model
and it remains questionable, if the results are really much more reliable. One should always keep the cost
benefit relationship in mind. Further it must be emphasized, that results of time history analyses will always
depend strongly on details of the model. The phase lag between the modal responses will strongly influence the
results. The phase lag depends on the calculated modal frequencies (especially the distance between them) and
the damping ratio, which can be estimated only roughly. Hence, results obtained from different models and/ or
with different FE programs will not coincide exactly. But (at least mid term) a comparable order of magnitude of
the results should be achieved. But the grater part of results will be on the safe side, since the overall approach
contains several conservative assumptions (e.g. modeling of axle loads as point loads, etc.).

2.5 Modelling of the excitation

For time history analysis the train models HSLM-A 1 to 10 are used. The basic excitation are the roving axles,
which are modelled as point loads. The train speed has to be varied between 150 km/ h and vmax x 1,2. The speed
is increased in load steps of 10 km/ h. Sometimes additional, smaller steps are necessary in order to identify the
exact maximum vertical acceleration.
Alternatively, the following procedure can be used. Parametric studies have demonstrated, that maximum
accelerations frequently occur, when a single mode is in resonance (that is very reasonable, when the gloabal
behaviour corresponds to that of a bending beam). If a train runs with the appropriate velocity over the bridge,
each single mode can be excited to its maximum. The run frequency must be equal to the modal frequency
under consideration. Each relevant modal frequency must be excited in this way, one after the other. The runfrequency is calculated in the following way:
fF = v / 3.6/ D [Hz]


v..train speed [km/ h]
D.charakteristic length [m]. From parametric studies it is known, that for the HSLM-A trains the wagon
length D can be used.
In addition to the above run-frequency also their harmonics must be considered.
For the excitation of the i-th mode, the HSLM-A train must run with the speed vi over the bridge:
Vi = ni *3,6 * D [km/ h]


In order to calculate the speed related to the n-th harmonic, vi has to be divided by n (number of the harmonic). In
the parametric investigation the harmonics up to n = 7 have been considered. This was especially important for
short single span bridges. All vi calculated in the above way within the band 150 to 300 km/ h were used for the
For an investigation using 10 km/ h steps 160 time history calculations were carried out (10 x 16). With the
alternative method, 1 to 3 calculations per train type and per modal frequency were necessary. In most cases 1
to 3 modal frequencies are relevant. In one special case with two relevant modal frequencies 40 calculations were
Especially in the case of multiple span bridges the maxima of the response could occur also at a frequency
between two modal frequencies. This is especially true, if the modal frequencies are closely spaced. But from the
parametric studies it is concluded, that the above method gives sufficient accurate estimates of the maximum
Now it should be evident, that for a Level II investigation + the alternative excitation procedure, it makes no sense
to model bearing stiffnesses accurately. In reality the modal frequencies will be slightly lower, hence also the run
frequency will be slightly lower. But the maximum acceleration is always calculated for resonance and the slight
difference of the resonant frequency can be neglected.


In August 2002 accelerations were measured at the 3 span trough - bridge P5 (26 m, 30 m, 26 m; one track per
bridge; see Figure 1 ) during several high speed passages. Measurements were carried out in 13 points on both
webs of the trough. Some trains were special test configurations, others represented regular traffic.

From the recorded acceleration time histories the maxima and the maximum sliding effective values were
elaborated.. All values were clearly below the limit 3,5 m/s for bridges with ballast bed given in prEN1991-2.
Using the measured results of one freight train, it was demonstrated via Operational Deflection Shape Analysis,
that the response is dominated by the first vertical bending mode (see Figure 2)

Figure 1. Railway bridge P5

Figure 2: Result of ODS Analysis, first vertical

modeshape at 4,75 Hz

From free - vibrations decay after the train passages a modal damping ratio of 0,0113 was obtained, which is
plausible for a prestressed bridge. But it is expected that the total damping during train passage should be higher,
since relative displacements causing friction occur within the ballast bed and even movements of bearings, etc.
could contribute to the overall damping.
Measurements were carried out for 23 high speed passages. Acceleration time histories and frequency spectra
were obtained. Further, for each passage the maxima of Aeff, Amax and Amin [m/s] were elaborated. Amax and Amin
are the positive maximum and the negative minimum, respectively. Both values cover the full frequency range. On
the other hand Aeff means the maximum sliding effective value, which is obtained by time integration over a
sliding time window with 0,125 s length. Hence, this means a filtering of the higher frequencies and Aeff is a value
comparable to the results obtained with the FE model of P5. As an example the results of train passage no. 8
are shown in Figure 3.

Zugsvorbeifahrt Nr.8
Zug Nr. 93926, v=250km/h


Zeitsignal [m/s]

MP 106


MP 104





Objekt P5, Pchlarn, N


-1,94 Legende:
-1,70 MP - Mepunkt Nr.
-2,07 Aeff - max. gleitender Effektiv w ert von Beschleunigung mit Fenster von 0,125s.
Amax - maximale Beschleunigung
-1,30 Amin - minimale Beschleunigung
-1,78 alle Angaben in m/s


Frequenzspektren [m/s]

MP 6


MP 8


MP 7

MP 1


MP 2


MP 3



MP 106

MP 104

MP 6

MP 8

MP 7

MP 1

MP 2

MP 3











Figure 3. Measured results for high speed train passage no. 8 at trough bridge P5.

From the frequency spectra and the table with Aeff, Amax and Amin it can be concluded, that the acceleration time
history contains considerable contributions from higher frequencies. It can be shown, that the higher frequencies
are excited by the sleeper frequency (run frequency depending on sleeper distance and train speed). It is
assumed that a dynamic reaction of the permanent way is triggered by the sleeper frequency. The part of the
acceleration corresponding to the bridge modes (represented by Aeff ) is only 30 40 % of the overall
acceleration. It is emphasized, that models according to prEN 1991-2 do not consider a dynamic interaction of the
permanent way. Hence, it must be clarified whether these higher frequency contributions are important for track
stability or not. Also the background behind the limits 3,5 and 5 m/s must be discussed with the authors of the
code. Further measurements + calculations will be necessary.


At the moment a parametric study is planned in order to provide the basis for the application of the Level I
Method as the standard procedure. As many parameters are limited to certain bands it is feasible to elaborate
diagrams, which could cover the greater part of all railway bridges, which will be built in Austria in the future.
At the moment the following results are available, which were elaborated during regular design:
Level III- single span: 10 (total number)
Material: 1 steel, 6 concrete, 3 filler beam
Cross section: 1 two steel girders, 6 plate, 3 filler beam
Number of tracks: 1 two tracks, 9 one track
Span length: 5,75 34 m

Level ///- multiple span: 8

Material: 4 concrete, 3 composite, 1 filler beam
Cross section: 1 trough, 2 hollow girder, 1 plate, 3 composite, 1 filler beam
Number of tracks: 4 two tracks, 4 one track
Span length: main span 14 120 m; 6 three spans; 2 four spans
Level III- framed viaducts: 11
Material: 11 concrete
Cross section: 11 plate
Number of tracks: 11 two tracks
Span length: 5 14 m
In addition, first parametric studies and 3 design project studies for multiple span bridges were carried out on
Level II. Results for the following types are available:
Level II- single span: 19
Material: 3 prestressed, 16 reinforced concrete
Cross section: 12 plate, 4 T - beam, 3 hollow girder
Number of tracks: 19 two tracks (the maximum acceleration of the variant with one track is approximately the
max. acceleration of the two track variant x 2!)
Span length: 5 35 m
Level II- multiple span: 10
Material: 10 reinforced concrete
Cross section: 9 plate, 1 T - beam
Number of tracks: 10 two tracks (the maximum acceleration of the variant with one track is approximately the
max. acceleration of the two track variant x 2!)
Span length: main span 8 18 m; 2 two spans; 6 three spans; 2 four spans
The idea is to present the available knowledge in diagrams with interpolation between investigated variants. The
maximum acceleration is presented as a function of total mass (or span length) and slenderness (e.g. as a set of
curves). Some examples based on the limited existing knowledge are presented in Figure 4, 5 and 6.

I I - Ei n f e l d _ B e t o n



max. vert. Beschl. (m/s)

max. vert. Beschl. [m/s]



Pl. 1/ 12


Pl. 1/ 15


Pl. Balk.


Gr enzwer t







8000,0 10000,0 12000,0 14000,0 16000,0

Gesamtmasse [t]

Figure 4: Level III; multi-span; concrete; slend.: 1/15






Gesamt ma s s e [ t ]

Figure 5: Level III, single span; diamonds: concrete plate

slend. 1/12; square: concrete plate slend. 1/15;
triangle: T beam; cross: hollow girder

III -Rahmen

max. vert. Beschl. (m/s)









G e sa m t m a sse [ t ]

Figure 6. Level III; framed viaducts (concrete)



In the first phase of discussion the expert team focused on the low (very conservative) damping ratios given in
prEN1991-2. But it turned out later, that damping has a less significant influence on the results, if other
parameters are within certain bands. For simple span structures the slenderness has an intrinsic influence. If the
maximum slenderness is limited to 1/12 and the total mass is not very small, the acceleration criterion given in
prEN1991-2 is fulfilled (see Figure 5).
Further, a very detailed comparison between two 3D models of the trough - bridge P5 (at Level III) was carried
out. The first one was elaborated by TDV/ Graz with the software RM2000. The second model was developed by
arsenal research with the software SOFISTIK. Finally a very good agreement was obtained.
Concerning the accuracy of modelling, important experience is expected, if the results obtained by beam models
and 3D models will be compared. In [1] the basic theory for calculations of train passages over bridges is
summarized. Several aspects (e.g. the moving masses, influences from coriolis forces; all influences which would
cause time variable matrices) are not considered in prEN1991-2.
The criterion for the maximum deck acceleration has to be further checked for plausibility. A discussion with the
authors is necessary (e.g. BAM/ Berlin). The question must be answered, if the components with higher
frequencies (related to the sleeper frequency), which were found by the measurements on bridge P5 are
relevant for track stability. This is a basic question, since up to now this phenomenon is not considered in the
structural models and only the acceleration related to the structural modes (which is only 30 40% of the total
acceleration in the case of P5) is obtained from the calculations.
The planned parametric study should be a good mixture of Level III and Level II investigations. The main goal is
the elaboration of the basis for the Level I method. Then, for the greater part of future railway bridges no further
dynamic investigations will be necessary. Further, the Level II approaches can be improved and calibrated
(elaboration of correction factors). The method should become the standard procedure, which is sufficient for the
greater part of the remaining cases, where calculations are necessary (e.g. for existing bridges). It must be an
additional goal, that dynamic investigations of beam models even time history analysis - is mid term no problem
for the average practical engineer.


LHR, M. & DINKER, D., Schwingungsverhalten von Eisenbahnbrcken bei berfahrt von
Hochgeschwindigkeitszgen, Proceedings Fachtagung Baudynamik, Kassel 2003, VDI-Berichte 1754.
FLESCH, R.., Die Berechnung von Eisenbahnbrcken nach prEN1991-2, Proceedings Fachtagung
Baudynamik, Kassel 2003, VDI-Berichte 1754.