Several elements different in international projects compared to U.S.

The development of railroad infrastructure is occurring globally. When a rail project is in another country, there are multiple differences for Hanson’s railroad engineering team to consider, compared to working on a project in the United States.

System of measurement

While the United States has not yet adopted the International System of Units (SI), also known as the metric system, we design in SI for projects in other countries. However, many railroad components are still in imperial units in these countries. Track standard gauge is exactly 4 feet and 8.5 inches or a derived metric equivalent, the distance along the track may be marked by historic mileposts and the prefabricated concrete components and other track material are often in imperial units.


Hanson’s clients expect plans and specifications in the official language of their country. We have taken different approaches for plans and specifications or other text-heavy documents. The text for plans is initially translated with online software. For specifications and reports, we have used technical translating services. Both translations are then fully reviewed by a Hanson engineer fluent in that language.

Construction document expectations

Other countries often have expectations for plans and specifications different than those in the United States. Many contractors are used to seeing most of the design content in the plans and less in the specifications. The local custom for construction documents may be for highly detailed plans with few or no opportunities for contractor-design or performance specifications.

Availability of materials

Good railroad engineering includes the use of subgrade, subballast and ballast materials that are on-site or economical to transport to the site. On international projects, the availability of components and manufactured materials is considered. Certain steel reinforcement bar sizes are preferred, and other sizes may be more expensive or not available. Electrical components should be locally available; otherwise, allowances must be made for import time and cost.

Availability of construction methods and equipment

In certain countries or with a project farther from a major population center, certain construction equipment or methods may not be available. Contractors may not have equipment available to drive pile with impact or vibratory hammers. Manual labor may be used instead of mechanical trenching or directional drilling. Contractors may use wheeled equipment that can be driven between projects, rather than tracked equipment that must be transported with the added challenge of hauling permits.

It is critical to establish strong communication between Hanson, our client and the supervision or inspection team hired locally by our client.

Construction services

Hanson frequently provides office-based engineering support services during the construction phases of our international railroad projects. It is critical to establish strong communication between Hanson, our client and the supervision or inspection team hired locally by our client. We attend regular weekly construction meetings and have well-defined procedures for managing submittals and requests for information. Hanson can then confirm that the construction is proceeding in conformance with the plans and specifications.

Learn more about how Hanson serves its international rail clients — contact Michael Pochop at

This entry was posted in Admin on June 09, 2021