Routine maintenance of rails is desirable and in many cases an essential part of limiting the development of significant rail defects. The principal components of rail maintenance are lubrication, which greatly reduces wear, and reprofiling. Reprofiling, which is most commonly undertaken by grinding, is essential to remove existing corrugation. It is also an essential component of current treatments of RCF. Asymmetric reprofiling helps vehicles steer through curves, thereby reducing all types of defects that occur in curves, while establishment of a more appropriate profile in straight track can reduce hunting.
Hard rails offer a potential treatment for most rail defects, except thermal damage. However, hard rails should only be used if the profile is both appropriate and also routinely maintained: soft rails are more “forgiving” than hard rails.
Maintenance activities occasionally leave features that are both undesirable and avoidable. It is important to recognise features that are inevitable and those that can be avoided.