Specifications for Track Ballast

The following specifications of ballast, which have recently been revised (June 2004), are followed on Indian Railways. These specifications are applicable for the stone ballast to be used for all types of sleepers on normal tracks, turnouts, tunnels, and deck slabs on all routes.

8.6.1 General Qualities

The ballast material should possess the general qualities described below.

Basic quality The ballast should be hard, durable, as far as possible angular along edges/corners, and free from weathered portions of parent rock, organic impurities, and inorganic residues.

Particle shape Ballasts should be cubical in shape as far as possible. Individual pieces should not be flaky and should have flat faces generally with not more than two rounded/sub-rounded faces.

Mode of manufacture Ballasts for all BG main lines and running lines, except on E routes, but including E special routes, should be machine crushed. For other BG lines and MG/NG routes planned or sanctioned for conversion, the ballast should preferably be machine crushed. Hand broken ballast can be used in exceptional cases with the prior approval of the chief track engineer or the CAO (chief administrative officer). Such approval should be obtained prior to the invitation of tenders. Hand broken ballasts can be used without any formal approval on MG and NG routes not planned or sanctioned for conversion.

8.6.2 Physical Properties

All ballast samples should possess the physical properties given in Table 8.4 when tested in accordance with IS:2386 (IV)-1963.

Table 8.4 Physical requirements of ballast


BG, MG, and NG (planned/sanctioned for conversion)

NG and MG (other than those planned for conversion)

Aggregate abrasion

30% maximum*

35% maximum

Aggregate impact

20% maximum*

30% maximum

Water absorption



* In exceptional cases, relaxable on technical and/or economic grounds up to 35% and 25%, respectively, by the chief track engineer (CTE) in open lines and the chief administration officer (construction) (CAO/C) for construction projects. Relaxation in abrasion and impact values is given prior to the invitation of tender and should be incorporated in the tender document.

8.6.3 Size and Gradation

The ballast should satisfy the size and gradation requirements given in Table 8.5.

Table 8.5 Ballast gradation

Size of sieve

% retained

65 mm

5% maximum

40 mm

40% to 60%

20 mm

Not less than 98% for machine crushed and not less than 95% for hand broken

8.6.4 Oversized Ballast

(a) Retention on 65-mm square mesh sieve A maximum of 5% ballast retained on a 65-mm sieve is allowed without deduction in payment. In case the ballast retained on a 65-mm sieve exceeds 5% but is less than 10%, payment at a 5% reduction of 5% in the contracted rate is made for the full stack. Stacks retaining more than 10% of ballast on a 65-mm sieve are rejected.

(b) Retention on 40-mm square mesh sieve In case the ballast retained on a 40-mm square mesh sieve (machine crushed only) exceeds the 60% limit prescribed above, payment at the following reduced rates is made for the full stack in addition to the reduction as worked out above.

(i) 5% reduction in contracted rates if the retention on a 40-mm square mesh sieve is between 60% (excluding) and 65% (including).

(ii) 10% reduction in contracted rates if retention on a 40-mm square mesh sieve is between 65% (excluding) and 70% (including).

(iii) In case the retention on a 40-mm square mesh sieve exceeds 70%, the stack is rejected.

(iv) In the case of hand broken ballast supply, 40-mm-sieve analysis may not be carried out. The executive may, however, ensure that the ballast is well graded between 65 mm and 20 mm.

8.6.5 Undersized Ballast

The ballast is treated as undersized and rejected if

(a) retention on a 40-mm sieve is less than 40% and

(b) retention on a 20-mm sieve is less than 98% (for machine crushed ballast) or 95% (for hand broken ballast).

8.6.6 Shrinkage Allowance

Payment is made for the gross measurements either in stacks or in wagons without any deduction for shrinkage/voids. However, when ballast is supplied in wagons, up to 8% shrinkage is permitted at the destination by the consignee verifying the booked quantities.

8.6.7 Sampling and Testing

The following procedure is specified for the sampling and testing of the ballast.

(a) A minimum of three samples of ballast should be taken for sieve analysis for measurement done on any particular date, even if the number of stacks to be measured is less than three.

(b) The tests for abrasion value, impact value, and water absorption should be done in approved laboratories or in the Railways’ own laboratories (A list of these laboratories should be given in the tender document).

(c) In order to ensure the supply of a uniform quality of ballast, the specifications given in Table 8.6 should be followed with respect to sampling, testing, and acceptance of the ballast. The tests given in this table may be carried out more frequently if warranted at the discretion of the Railways.

(d) On supply of the first 100 m3, tests for size gradation, abrasion value, impact value, and water absorption (if prescribed) should be carried out by the Railways. Further supply should be accepted only after the first batch satisfies these tests. The Railways reserves the right to terminate the contract as per the general conditions of contract (GCC) at this stage itself in case the ballast supply fails to meet any of these specifications.

Table 8.6 Frequency of tests for ballast supply


Supply in


Supply in wagons

For a stack of

For a stack of

volumne less

volume more

than 100 m3

than 100 m3

Number of size

One for each stack

One for each stack

One for each wagon

and gradation tests

Size of one


0.027 for every


sample* (m3)

100 m3 or part


Abrasion value, impact

value, and water

One test for every 2000 m3 of ballast

absorption testf

* This sample should be collected using a wooden box of internal dimensions 0.3 m x 0.3 m x 0.3 m from different parts of the stack/wagon.

f These tests should be done for the purpose of monitoring the quality during supply. In case the test results are not as per the prescribed specifications at any stage, further supplies should be suspended till suitable corrective action is taken and supply as per specifications is ensured.

Design of Ballast Section | RAILWAY ENGINEERING | Collection and Transportation of Ballasts