There has been a long debate among train control professionals related to broken rail detection; where it is required and how it is achieved. Despite this ongoing discussion, there has been little research in terms of the actual practical application of new technology or risk mitigation approaches since conventional track circuits have been applied to detect broken rails.

This paper first looks at conventional broken rail detection as implemented with various track circuit types, then reviews the current research on alternate means of detection throughout the world.

The paper will then quantify a risk based approach utilizing existing technologies to mitigate the broken rail requirements currently mandated for higher speed rail systems in the United States. Further, the implications for train control systems for both transit and the general system of railroads will be examined.

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