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 6 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 exisiting 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 modules

Two online learning modules are mandatory as course preparation and need to be achieved during the month of September 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 (2-13 SEPTEMBER 2019, 9 hours of lecture and 9 hours of personal work)

The module introduce 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 (16-27 SEPTEMBER 2019, 9 hours of lecture and 9 hours of personal work)

This module introduce 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 discuss 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)

SUN 6.10

Ice breaker activity in Trondheim

MON 7.10

  • Opening/Course introduction
  • Quiz about the online modules 1 and 2
  • Basic pavement design (mechanistic and empirical method)

TUE 8.10

  • Freezing soil – frost penetration and frost heave

WED 9.10

  • Thaw weakening and related pavement damage

THU 10.10

  • Modelling Day with TEMP/W from Geoslope

FRI 11.10

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

SAT 12.10 – No class / free time and personal work

SUN 13.10 - No class / free time and personal work

MON 14.10

  • Frost mitigation (insulation materials/drainage), winter maintenance and operation
  • Main building projects in Russian arctic - some problems and ways of its solution.

TUE 15.10

  • Basic railway design and laboratory demonstration
  • Russian standards for field and laboratory testing of frozen soil.

WED 16.10

  • Workshop/student presentations day

THU 17.10

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

FRI 18.10

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

FINAL EXAM: October 30th, 2019



  • Quizzes on the 2 online modules (20%)
  • Homework (15%)
  • Oral presentation during the workshop (15%)
  • Home Exam (50%)


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: Project manager of the Frost Protection of Roads and Railways research program at 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. Marc Lebeau: Research and Development Engineer for GEOSLOPE, Canada

Dr Vladislav Isaev Geocryology Department, Moscow State University, Russia

Dr Pavel Kotov Geocryology Department,Moscow State University, Russia


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
  3. A letter of recommendation from you research supervisor

Registrations for students and professionals are currently open until June 30 and the announcement of the selected students will be made the first week of July.

All selected students are entitled to a grant of 350 NOK/night to help cover their accommodation costs during the course. Students coming from Canada can also get up to 6500 NOK to cover travel expenses.

Please note that the refund will be done only after the completion of the course in Trondheim. Participants are also 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 6-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.

To register please fill in the following form and send to the course coordinator: Registration form

Fee for professionals that want to follow the full course is 20 000 NOK. 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)