The initiation and growth of fatigue cracking is mainly due to high stress concentration, heterogeneity and poor quality of weld. The detection and rectification of such weld defects are major concerns of rail network managers to reduce potential risk of rail breaks and derailments. To estimate the fatigue life of welded joints and to analyze the progress of fatigue cracks, a fracture mechanics-based analysis and fatigue models were developed using Finite Element Analysis. The initial flaw is obtained from a sample weld using ultrasonic flaw detecting machine test. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) approach based on the Paris law was applied to determine critical crack size and the number of cycles to failure using FRANC3D software. The inspection interval of rail welds before fracture (failure) was suggested based on reliability and life cycle analysis that correspond with minimum overall cost and frequency interval. It is recommended that fracture-based models in combination with reliability analyses can be a sustainable infrastructure decision-making algorithm.
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