Network Rail works with train operators to keep trains running this autumn

Credit: Network Rail

There is some ‘re-leaf’ for passengers, as trains blasting leaves off the line are on the move to keep passengers moving this autumn.

Following months of careful planning, six leaf busting trains will operate 24/7 to minimise the disruption caused by leaves on the line.

The specialist trains will travel around 80,000 kilometres between now until 13 December across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, East London and Essex.

The trains blast leaves off the track using high pressure water jets, then coat the rail with a gel which provides more grip to the passenger trains.

Leaves also cause track circuits and signals to fail, so planning has been done to remotely monitor key problem areas.

This year is also the first full year that all Greater Anglia trains are fitted with Wheel Slide Protection’ (WSP).

WSP helps the trains’ wheels to brake more evenly, preventing wheel damage and wear that could lead to trains being taken out of service for repair.

Rail passengers using Greater Anglia’s intercity service between Norwich and London are being advised to check before they travel this autumn as some trains will leave earlier than usual until mid-December.

From Monday 7 October until Friday 13 December, Greater Anglia intercity trains leaving Norwich, Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich, and Manningtree before 7.30am will depart up to five minutes earlier, Monday to Friday only.

The changes, which are made every year, are brought in to ensure that customers still arrive in London on time in the autumn, by allowing train drivers more time to brake and accelerate in the slippery conditions caused by compacted leaves

What did the officials say?

Mark Budden, Network Rail Anglia’s route director, said:

“We have looked at the data to identify where the hotspots are and are fully prepared to deal with leaves that fall onto the tracks, which create a problem similar to black ice on the road.

“We’re working with the train operators to prevent delays to trains. We’re going to be working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to keep passengers moving, so they can get to their destination safely and reliably this autumn.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, commented:

“We are acutely aware of the frustration and inconvenience felt by our passengers if things go wrong, so we are pleased to be taking action in partnership with Network Rail, making additional preparations to protect train services during what is traditionally a difficult period on the railway.

“We will be doing all we can, as ever, to make lives a little easier for our passengers, getting them from a to b reliably, on time and in comfort.”

Rory O’Neill, TfL’s General Manager for London Overground, said:

“We have been working closely with Network Rail and our operator Arriva Rail London, who run the London Overground on our behalf, to look at innovative ways to minimise the impacts of leaf fall which can cause delays to customer journeys.

“We hope this proposal will help ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Julian Drury, c2c Managing Director said:

  “Every season brings its own challenges and our team will be working closely with Network Rail throughout the autumn.

“We’ll be doing our best to ensure we carry on providing the reliable service our customers can depend on, whatever the weather.”

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  1. In spite of many years of publicity, few of the travelling public understand the problems during leaf-fall; before the earliest Sandite trains ran in the 70’s we did more skating than Torvil & Dean! Recall one instance when the up Cleethorpes-KX slid, all wheels locked, for nearly a mile after Tallington, and another when leaving Ashwell & Morden with a class 31 we got wheel spin in notch 1-minimum power. Happy days!


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