Large cyclic loads are nowinevitable due to an increased demand for freight and public transport.
The ballast layer subjected to these repeated traffic loads in a real track environment undergoes excessive
deformation and degradation. Ballast degradation is influenced by various factors including the amplitude and
number of load cycles, confining pressure, frequency, the angularity as well as fracture strength of individual
grains. Given the complexities of the behaviour of the rail track, the current track analysis techniques are overly
simplified. Considering this, an elasto-plastic constitutive model of a composite track is proposed. The largescale
laboratory tests are simulated in a numerical model and the results are then analyzed to better understand
the distribution of displacements and stresses inside the ballast layer. The advantages of the elasto-plastic finite
element simulations when compared to conventional analytical methods used by practitioners that are primarily
based on a linear elastic approach are demonstrated.