Why Failing Manholes Are an Imminent Risk to Railway Infrastructure

February 16, 2024

Know the Signs of Railway Failure to Avoid Potential Co

On average, three train derailments rock America’s railways every day, according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety. This might not seem like a high number compared to the tens of thousands of car crashes that occur daily, but the consequences of railway infrastructure failure are catastrophic to anyone in an incoming train’s path.

Hundreds of lives are lost on railways each year. Rural communities impacted face billions of dollars of restoration fees to recover in the aftermath. Local economies lose a vital economic engine facilitating the transport of necessary commodities. Some of these disasters can be chalked up to human error. Others may stem from neglected railways no longer able to accommodate the heavy friction from passing trains. But what lies beneath the railway poses perhaps the biggest risk of all.

Underground infrastructure serves as the foundation for railroad tracks, making up the solid ground needed to safely transport products or passengers. As a result, failing manholes and crumbling infrastructure threaten the stability of the railway, potentially leading to both railway collapse and derailment of an unsuspecting train. If you overlook much-needed underground infrastructure maintenance, you stand to lose the integrity of the impacted railroad as well as the infrastructure and utilities below.

What are the causes of railway infrastructure failure?

Railroads face a variety of concerns and challenges that can lead to railway infrastructure failure. Contributing causes include exposure to the elements, old age, lack of trained maintenance professionals available to service the track and neglect of supporting underground infrastructure, like manholes and pipelines.

Because railways play an essential role in commerce and travel, it can be difficult to schedule an inspection or maintenance to care for aging tracks and structures. Underground infrastructure maintenance is especially likely to go ignored since it’s invisible to the eye, and issues wouldn’t necessarily show up using traditional railway inspection equipment. Failing manholes and defective pipelines beneath railways can introduce a number of challenges to railroads, including flooding due to blocked drainage or inability to sustain heavy loads due to outdated pipelines.

To provide comprehensive care for railroads or railyards owned and operated in your purview, underground infrastructure maintenance should be as routine as general maintenance of above-ground railroad infrastructure. While train derailments can be attributed to deteriorating infrastructure as well as other issues like human error or track defects, a railway collapse typically indicates a much deeper problem within the supporting structure of the railroad.

failing manhole near a railroad. 

What are the signs of railway infrastructure failure?

Two common signs of railway infrastructure failure are cracked or deformed tracks as a result of consistent fatigue or stress to the railroad. Train wheels cause significant wear and tear to track structures, while heavy loads cause steel rails to warp. Both of these possibilities put railway safety at risk as railroad integrity is compromised.

However, problems beneath the tracks can potentially shift the foundation the railway stands on, putting the tracks, train cargo, passengers and any nearby surroundings or developments in harm’s way. To ensure optimal railroad performance, you must not overlook the condition of underground infrastructure. Failing manholes not only prohibit access to critical utilities below the surface, they also weaken the ground supporting nearby railroads, increasing susceptibility to a railway collapse. To make sure your team isn’t missing anything during inspections of railroad tracks, be on the lookout for the signs of failing manholes, including:

  • Cracks surrounding manhole surface
  • Noticeable damage to the manhole cover
  • Corrosive environment within the manhole
  • Deteriorating blocks or bricks inside the manhole
  • Water pooling around manhole, indicating drainage issues
  • Inflow and infiltration issues

Underground infrastructure specialists like HK Solutions Group can take care of failing manholes and pipelines through 3D manhole inspection technology and trenchless rehabilitation solutions to keep railways intact and in business.

Prevent Railroad Infrastructure Issues with Underground Infrastructure Maintenance

If you fear aging manholes and ancient infrastructure in your vicinity are threats to railroad safety and performance, you might also be concerned about digging up the area to restore these faulty structures. Have no fear—today’s technology has evolved to accommodate trenchless maintenance and rehabilitation for failing manholes, pipelines and more. However, underground infrastructure maintenance should first include a manhole inspection from a certified technician to identify underlying issues.

HK’s MACP-certified personnel use state-of-the-art 3D manhole inspection technology combined with artificial intelligence to pinpoint structural defects as small as 1mm in size. We quickly identify deficiencies and deliver underground infrastructure maintenance to maintain the safety and integrity of structures without needing to dig up the area. Our advanced accuracy and precision allow us to diagnose failing manholes before issues escalate and cause major damage, like a railway collapse or train derailment. We’re here to support railways with the most cost-effective and logical manhole rehabilitation solutions to keep operations on track.

image of monoform plus™ manhole lining. 

Avoid Shutdowns & Railway Collapse with Trenchless Manhole Rehabilitation

Trenchless  is the safest, most efficient solution to restore failing manholes in high-traffic areas like railroads. HK specializes in manhole lining solutions to repair unsecured structures without introducing new challenges and safety risks associated with traditional digging methods.

Tearing up the ground endangers the railroad tracks and passing trains that need a stable foundation to support critical cargo and heavy loads. Digging also introduces a financial burden to the railway owner because both underground infrastructure and railway infrastructure must be put back together again to safely support and route train traffic. In order to take on this method of rehabilitation, railways are forced to shut down. That’s where trenchless techniques come in.

Monoform PLUS™ Strengthens Underground Infrastructure for Railways

To provide trenchless manhole rehabilitation to high-impact areas like railroads and railyards, we curate manhole liners as part of our custom Monoform™ solutions. Monoform PLUS™ in particular, is popular for industrial applications like railway and underground infrastructure maintenance. When we install these 100% corrosion-resistant liners in failing manholes, we strengthen the deteriorating structure from within, essentially starting fresh with a future-proof manhole.

Designed for longevity and stamina, our liners help restore railways at their foundation so they’re able to withstand the weight of a fully loaded freight train and fight off issues like corrosion for long-term performance. In fact, trenchless manhole rehabilitation via structural lining is equivalent to the lifespan of a brand-new manhole replacement. Your newly restored underground infrastructure should last a lifetime, spanning 50 to 100 years, depending on how frequently it’s used and how well it’s maintained. Trenchless techniques allow railroads to continue running smoothly with minimal to no downtime, requiring less heavy-duty equipment and minimizing invasive procedures. When you need long-lasting solutions to prevent railway infrastructure failure, trust HK to keep trains on schedule with convenient manhole lining solutions.

image listing the benefits of monoform plus™ for manhole rehabilitation. 

Don’t Let Neglected Underground Infrastructure Lead to a Railway Collapse—Call HK Today!

HK Solutions Group specializes in innovative solutions to support railways and other industrial partners with critical underground infrastructure, helping to protect against railway collapse or derailment. We provide fully structural manhole rehabilitation to reinforce failing manholes and other struggling structures without disturbing ongoing railroad operations. Call us at (515) 283-0500 to discuss partnering with HK for underground infrastructure maintenance, or contact us below to schedule a 3D manhole inspection.

Get Started with a Manhole Inspection

photo of Matt Huston
Matt Huston

Matt’s expansive career spans 30 years working with trenchless, structural manhole rehabilitation technology to provide no-dig sewer solutions for industrial and municipal customers throughout the Midwest.

Over the years, Matt has been heavily involved with the Wisconsin Rural Water Association and Wisconsin Wastewater Operators’ Association, working his way through numerous committee positions to provide leadership to peers in the industry. He has also hosted impactful presentations for the associations outlining sewer system maintenance and structural manhole rehabilitation techniques.

Learn More About Matt