Autumn is a beautiful season but its weather brings poor conditions for running railways. Falling leaves cause issues as they stick to damp tracks and trains passing over them compress them into a thin, slippery black layer on the rail which is similar to black ice on roads.
The compressed leaves on the rails can cause increased braking distance, reduced acceleration and damage to train wheels, all of which can lead to delays and cancellations.
Despite these challenges, autumn 2021 saw Greater Anglia maintain its run of good performance and achieved an overall punctuality score of 94.48% from the 19th of September to the 8th of January 2022, making it the best autumn yet for the train company.
Autumn delays were down by 8% for 2021 when compared to 2020 and a huge 89% when compared to 2019. Cancellations due to the impact of autumn weather were also down 42% when compared to 2020 with just 7 cancellations compared to 12 and down a whopping 91% when compared to 2019.
Greater Anglia’s new fleet of trains must take credit for handling the issues of ‘leaf fall’ season much better than the old fleet.
The new Stadler trains feature improved Wheel Slide Protection, which is similar to ABS in cars and this system helps trains’ wheels to brake more evenly, which in turn prevents wheel damage and wear that can lead to trains being taken out of service for repair.
Dynamic traction control systems are also fitted to the new trains and stop wheel spin, which can happen when trains are trying to power but the wheels spin on the spot because they cannot gain the grip they need to move. If a trains wheel spins in one area, the heat created can create structural changes in the metal which can lead to reduced life span whilst causing burns on the track.
Improvements made to general wheel maintenance have meant that none of the wheels on the new Stadler fleet has suffered any damage or required repair through the autumn period, which has also dramatically cut the number of trains being removed from service for inspection and repair.
All Greater Anglia trains are also fitted with automatic sanders which leave a layer of grit on the rails as the trains run over them, the heavy wheels compact the grit which cleans off the slippy leaf mulch and increases grip.
The Marks Tey to Sudbury line recorded the best punctuality in the autumn months with 98.31%, this was closely followed by the Norwich to Great Yarmouth line which achieved 98.05%. The autumn period also saw 95% of Intercity trains travelling between Norwich and London run on time and 93.33% of trains on the West Anglia route ran on time.
Managing Director, Jamie Burles, said,
“I’m really pleased that, during what has traditionally been one of the most difficult periods of the year for performance, we have continued to run punctual and reliable services for our customers.
“These continued good results demonstrate that our new trains are helping to deliver real improvements in punctuality and reliability, coping much better with the challenges of autumn than our old trains, and are helping to transform journeys for people in the region.”