Engineering geology assessment of Slovens Creek Viaduct, Midland Line, Canterbury.
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
This project was initiated by ENGEO Limited and KiwiRail Holdings Limited to assess the stability of Slovens Creek Viaduct (specifically its western abutment) and a 3km section of rail corridor between Slovens Creek Viaduct and Avoca on the Midland Line (MDL). Commonly known as the scenic TranzAlpine rail journey (through Arthurs Pass National Park) the MDL connects Greymouth to Christchurch via Rolleston, where the MDL meets the Main South Line into Christchurch. The project area is approximately 40km southeast of Arthurs Pass Township, in the eastern extension of the Castle Hill Basin which is part of the Waimakariri Catchment and Canterbury Foothills. The field area is underlain by Rakaia Terrane, which is part of the Torlesse Composite Terrane forming the basement rock unit for the field area. Cretaceous-Tertiary rocks of the Castle Hill Basin overlie the basement strata and record a transgression-regression sequence, as well as mid-Oligocene submarine volcanism. The stratigraphic sequence in the Castle Hill Basin, and its eastern extension to Avoca, comprises two formations of the Eyre group, the older Broken River Formation and the younger Iron Creek Formation. Deep marine Porter Group limestones, marls, and tuffs of Oligocene age succeed the Iron Creek Formation of the Eyre Group, and probably records the maximum of the transgression. The Enys Formation lies disconformably on the Porter Group and is overlain unconformably by Late Pleistocene glacifluvial and glacial deposits. The Tertiary strata in the Slovens-Avoca rail corridor are weak, and the clay-rich tuff derived from mid-Oligocene volcanism is particularly prone to slaking. Extensive mapping carried out for this project has identified that some 90 percent of the surface along the length of the Slovens-Avoca corridor has been subject to mass movement. The landslides of the Slovens-Avoca rail corridor are clearly younger than the Last Glaciation, and Slovens Creek has been downcutting, with associated faulting and uplift, to form the present day geomorphology of the rail corridor. Deep-seated landslides in the rail corridor extend to Slovens Creek, locally deflecting the stream course, and a generic ground failure model for the rail corridor has been developed. Exploratory geotechnical investigations, including core drilling, installation of an inclinometer and a piezometer, enabled the construction of a simple ground model and cross section for the Slovens Creek Viaduct western abutment. Limit-equilibrium and pseudo-static slope stability analyses using both circular and block critical slip surface search methods were applied to the ground model for the western abutment of Slovens Creek Viaduct. Piezometric and strength data obtained during laboratory testing of core material have been used to constrain the western abutment stability assessment for one representative section line (C-C’). Prior to pseudo-static sensitivity analyses peak ground acceleration (PGA) for various Ultimate Limit State (ULS) design return periods, defined by an equation given in NZS1170.5:2004, were calculated and have been used as a calibration technique to find and compare specific PGA values for pseudo-static analyses in the Slovens Creek Viaduct area. The main purpose has been to provide an indication of how railway infrastructure could be affected by seismic events of various return periods defined by ULS design standards for the area. Limit equilibrium circular slip surface search methods, both grid search and auto refine search, indicated the slope is stable with a FoS greater than 1.0 returned from each, although one particular surface returned the lowest FoS in each. This surface is in the lower portion of the slope, adjacent to Slovens Stream and northeast of the MDL. As expected, pseudo-static analyses returned a lower FoS overall when compared to limit equilibrium analyses. The PGA analyses suggest that partial ground failure at the Slovens Creek Viaduct western abutment could occur in a 1 in 25-year return period event within materials on the slower slope beyond the immediate rail corridor. A ULS (1 in 500-year) event in the Slovens Creek Viaduct area would likely produce a PGA of ~0.9g, and the effects on the western abutment and rail infrastructure would most likely be catastrophic. Observed ground conditions for the western abutment of the Slovens Creek Viaduct suggest there is no movement within the landslide at depth within the monitoring timeframe of this project (22 May 2015 – 4 August 2015). Slope stability monitoring is recommended to be continued in two parts: (1) the inclinometer in BH1 is to be monitored on a six monthly basis for one year following completion of this thesis, and then annually unless ground movements become evident; and (2) surface movement monitoring should be installed using a fixed datum on the stable eastern abutment. Long-term stability management strategies for the Slovens Creek Viaduct western abutment are dependent upon future observed changes and ongoing monitoring. Hazard and risk assessment using the KiwiRail Qualitative Risk Assessment Framework (QRA) is recommended, and if slope stability becomes problematic for operation of the Midland Line consideration should be given to deep slope drainage. In the event of a large magnitude or high PGA earthquake all monitoring should be reviewed.