Network Rail’s Leaf Busting trains have begun operating in the Midlands to keep passengers moving this Autumn.
Since Friday the 1st of October and running until Monday the 13th of December, the specialist fleet will wash leaf debris off of a massive 91,195 miles of track throughout the region whilst trees lose their leaves.
The nerve centre for this autumnal operation is the seasonal delivery depot which is located at Kings Norton, and will keep the tracks of the West Midlands West Coast main line to Euston, and Chiltern main line to Marylebone leaf-free this autumn.
Three of the trains, which are known as MPV’s (multi-purpose vehicles) will run from the Kings Norton depot along with another train called an RHHT (rail head treatment train) which will operate from Banbury.
The enormous undertaking means the hardworking leaf-busting fleet will tackle the equivalent miles of track as if going almost four times around the equator!
Railway lines are cleared by using high-pressure water jets, following this, the machines then apply glue-like coating to the rails which help passenger and freight trains wheels to grip the track.
The leaf fall season creates a problem for railways which can be likened to that of black ice on roads. As the leaves fall and stick to the tracks, they become compacted by trains moving over them, creating a thin, black layer that can impact both train braking and acceleration. The build-up of leaf mulch can also create difficulties for signallers to find a train’s location which has a knock-on effect of causing delays. During 2020, Network Rail spent £2.9 million on the Central and West Coast South networks during the autumn period in a bid to keep passengers on the move.
2021 will see 107 traction gel applicators that have already been positioned across the Central route. The traction gel applicators spray a special sand-like gel onto the rails and will provide extra grip for train wheels.
As well as the special leaf busting fleet and the gel applicators, specialist teams will be checking that the autumn treatment programme is working efficiently across the West Midlands and Chiltern main line and will also provide extra support where necessary.
Martin Colmey, operations director for Network Rail’s Central route, said: “Leaves on the line are a big problem for the railway. It disrupts services and inconveniences passengers and every year, Network Rail and train operators work together to battle against the elements to get passengers and freight to their destinations.
“Even more work has gone into getting prepared for autumn this year because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, including how we operate the trains themselves. We are ready to keep people and goods moving across the West Midlands and Chiltern Main line running a safe and reliable service for our customers.”
Lucy Wootton, head of the Grand Rail Collaboration, said: “Autumn is a challenging time on the railway but a huge amount of work takes place to prepare and deliver track treatment to keep trains on the move. It shows the industry working as one to deliver the best possible service for passengers and freight.”
Malcolm Holmes, executive director for West Midlands Rail Executive, said: “The rail industry’s work to keep trains safely moving during autumn is key as we welcome passengers back to train travel. Leaves on the line is no joke and is something Network Rail is once again taking seriously as it sends out its fleet of treatment trains this year.”
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