The vibrations of railway tracks on a poroelastic half-space generated by moving trains are investigated through a vehicle–track–ground coupling model. The theoretical model incorporates a vehicle, a track, and a fully saturated poroelastic half-space soil medium. The source of vibration excitation is divided into two components: the quasi-static loads and the dynamic loads. The quasi-static loads are related to the static component of the axle loads, whereas the dynamic loads are due to the dynamic wheel–rail interaction. A linear Hertizian contact spring is introduced between each wheelset and the rail to consider the dynamic loads. Biot's dynamic theory is used to characterize the poroelastic half-space soil medium. Using the Fourier transform, the governing equations for the track–ground system are solved and the numerical results are presented for a single axle vehicle model. The different dynamic characteristics of the elastic soil medium and the saturated poroelastic medium are investigated. In addition, the different roles of the moving axle loads and the roughness-induced dynamic loads are identified. It is concluded that the vibration level of the free field off the track predicted by the poroelastic soil medium is smaller than that predicted by the elastic soil medium for vehicle speed below the Rayleigh wave speed of the poroelastic half-space, whereas it is larger for vehicle speed above the Rayleigh wave speed. The dynamic loads play an important role in the dynamic responses of the track–ground system. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.