The performance of rail transport has increased significantly in recent decades, in particular due to the gradual introduction of high-speed rails worldwide. In 1981, the first high-speed line of the world was inaugurated; nowadays, high-speed is operating in more than 20 countries, the high-speed network covering more than 35,000 kms (with more than 25,000 additional kms under construction). Spain is the second country by total distance of railways installed (only behind China) and the first in terms relative to the population and surface. Since the installation of the first high-speed line in Spain in 1992, the elements of the superstructure have undergone a continuous evolution, in order to improve the performance, the durability of the components and the comfort of the passengers. This evolution rests on an adequate selection of materials based on the characterization of their physical and mechanical properties to ensure the optimum in-service conditions. This chapter includes an overview of the different elements present in the railway superstructure of the high-speed lines in Spain. Throughout the text, the innovations incorporated over time are analyzed, as well as the methods used to validate them. In particular, a description of the mechanical characterization procedures is presented.
Part of the book: High-Speed Rail