Design of Roads and Railways in Cold Climate

Intensive international graduate course - Frozen canoes project

Design of Roads and Railways in Cold Climate





Public transportation and municipal infrastructure in the far North are facing important challenges to its operation and sustainability. Both in Canada and Norway there is an increasing need for multidisciplinary and highly skilled practitioners in science and engineering related to cold regions in order to develop sustainable infrastructure in a context of climate change. Construction techniques developed in the southern parts of North America and in Europe cannot simply be applied to transportation infrastructures in our cold climate environments. Knowledge of the key science foundation for frost action is required to adequately address the needs of industry and academic research. Climate change adds considerable uncertainty to design problems, but by sharing our expertise between different science and engineering research environments, and with industry, we will improve our capacity to respond to future cold region issues.

This course is an international and multidisciplinary intensive course aiming to disseminate the knowledge on road and railway construction in cold climate regions with a special focus on the conditions in Norway and Canada. This course is part of the FROZEN CANOES project that aims to contribute to high quality research-based education by combining geoscience and engineering knowledge from Norway and Canada. FROZEN CANOES is funded by the INTPART program of the Norwegian Research Council and the Centre for Internationalization of University Studies in Norway.


The course is primarily intended for graduate students at the master level in Engineering and Earth Sciences as well as for PhDs and professionals.



The full course gives 7.5 ETC credits, which is equivalent to 3 Canadian credits

Topics to be covered in the course

  • Basic pavement design (strength, stress, and structural design)
  • Basic railway design
  • Freezing of soils
  • Heat transfer mechanisms (conduction, convection/advection, radiation)
  • Thaw weakening and related pavement damages
  • Frost mitigation (insulation materials, drainage)
  • Pavement and ballast design with protection against frost heave
  • Materials used in the frost protection layers (crushed rocks, lightweight materials)
  • Roads and railways maintenance and operation
  • Rehabilitation of existing roads
  • Laboratory methods (frost heave test)
  • Field investigation methods
  • Modelling: calculation of thermal regime in soils and pavements by using Temp-W from Geoslope.
  • Adaptation to climate change

Learning outcome


  • Basic principles of road and railway design


  • Design a road/railway in cold climate
  • Characterize the climate load for a project
  • Identify deterioration mechanisms and choose appropriate materials
  • Perform thermal modeling
  • Collaborate in an interdisciplinary team of geoscientists and engineers
  • Respond with innovative solutions to cold regions transportation issues
  • Carry out field and lab work related to frost action

 General competences

  • Designing a road/railway in cold climate using TEMP/W
  • Good judgment on the best method of mitigation to use

Mandatory preparation prior to the course – online module

Two online learning modules followed by a quiz are mandatory as course preparation and need to be achieved during the months of September and October to allow more time on practical field aspects of frozen ground science and engineering during the intensive course. These online modules will focus on heat transfer and freezing-thawing soil mechanics.

MODULE 1: HEAT TRANSFER (12-25 SEPTEMBER 2022, 9 hours of lecture and 9 hours of personal work)

The module introduces the students to the basics of heat transfer in freezing soils. Conduction, convection, and radiation heat transfer mechanisms as well as phase change and enthalpy are covered. Thermo-physical properties of soils and construction materials are presented including various prediction models available from the literature. Effects of insulation layers in road structures are also discussed in terms of frost protection and risk of differential surface icing.

MODULE 2: FREEZING-THAWING SOIL MECHANICS (SEPTEMBER 26 TO OCTOBER 7 2022, 9 hours of lecture and 9 hours of personal work)

This module introduces the students to the mechanics of freezing, frozen and thawing soils. It includes basic information on freezing soils: the mechanics of frost heave and the strength, stiffness, and deformation characteristics of frozen soils. The module discusses the movement of water in freezing and frozen soils, with attention given to the unfrozen water content in fine-grained soils (silts and clays) at temperatures below 0 °C and the resulting hydraulic conductivity of these materials. This module also presents the thaw consolidation theory and the settlement behavior of ice-rich soils as frozen ground thaws.

Course program (can be adjusted)

MON 17.10

  • Opening/Course introduction
  • Basic pavement design (mechanistic and empirical method)
  • Workshop/student presentations day

Ice breaker activity in Trondheim

TUE 18.10

  • Freezing soil – frost penetration and frost heave (PART 1)

WED 19.10

  • Freezing soil – frost penetration and frost heave (PART 2)
  • Thaw weakening and related pavement damage (PART 1)

THU 20.10

  • Thaw weakening and related pavement damage (PART 2)

FRI 21.10

  • Factory visits for insulation products in Fredrikstad/Oslo: Foam glass and LWA (Leca)

SAT 22.10 – No class / free time and personal work

SUN 23.10 - No class / free time and personal work

MON 24.10

  • Modelling Day with TEMP/W

TUE 25.10

  • Frost mitigation (insulation materials/drainage), winter maintenance and operation
  • Data analysis

WED 26.10

  • Basic railway design and laboratory demonstration

THU 27.10

  • Field visit at the Røros test site / field investigation methods

FRI 28.10

  • Rehabilitation: investigation, diagnostic, rehabilitation techniques
  • Course summary
  • Exam preparation

FINAL EXAM: November 7 , 2022 (may be adjusted)

 Evaluations (may be adjusted)

  • Quizzes on the 2 online modules (20%)
  • Climate change video (10%)
  • Thermal modelling exercises (15%)
  • Home Exam (55%)

Course material:

  • Cold Regions Pavement Engineering (Doré and Zubeck)
  • Additional lecture notes for topics not covered in the book
  • TEMP/W software from GEOSLOPE


Professor Inge Hoff: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTNU, Norway

Dr Elena Scibilia: Researcher at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTNU, Norway

Professor Guy Doré: Department of Civil and Water Engineering, Université Laval, Canada

Professor Jean Côté: Department of Civil and Water Engineering, Université Laval, Canada

Professor Chris Burn: Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Canada

Dr. Benoit Loranger: Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTNU, Norway

Dr. Marc Lebeau: Research and Development Engineer for GEOSLOPE, Canada

And other guest lecturers from the industry and the Norwegian Public Road and Rail Administration.


Academic applicants must provide the following documents:

  1. A letter of motivation explaining the reasons why you want to follow the course
  2. A curriculum vitae

Registrations for students and professionals are currently open until September 1st 2022.

Mobility stipends

  • We are very pleased to have Sentinel North from Université Laval as a partner in this course in Norway. Students from Université Laval can get financial support to cover their accommodation and travel expenses (up to 80%) by applying directly to the Sentinel North training fund program:

  • The selected academic applicants coming from other universities in Canada will get a stipend from the Frozen Canoes program up to 4 100 NOK (≈535$) for accommodation and 10 000 NOK for travel (≈1300$). Please note that the stipend will be given at the beginning of the course in Trondheim.

Participants are responsible to book their own accommodation in Trondheim.

Students registered full-time in a Canadian university will have to pay their tuition fees for a 3-credits course at their own institution as well as an administration fee at NTNU. 

Professional applicants

10 places are available for professionals. Places will be awarded to the first registered participants.

For professionals that want to follow the full course for a fee (NOK 31 000).  It is also possible to just follow the online modulus for 4 000 NOK.


To register, please contact and send all the required documents to:

Course coordinator, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTNU
Julie Malenfant-Lepage



FROZEN CANOES is a 3-year program developing three interdisciplinary and complementary Master level courses. All courses have a significant field component and cover the following topics:

  1. Seasonal Frost at NTNU, Trondhein, Norway (2019)
  2. Continuous Permafrost at UNIS, Svalbard (2020)
  3. Discontinuous Permafrost at the Yukon College, Canada (2021)