Leaf blasting trains to keep the North West railroad tracks clear this fall.

Passengers and freight will be kept moving across the North West this fall as ‘leaf-breaking’ trains explode off the line.

A special fleet of ‘leafbreakers’; trains are already washing the tracks of leaf debris as trees shed their leaves this fall. The special trains will cover around 96,000 miles of track in the North West region and operate from Network Rail’s seasonal delivery depot, Wigan Springs Branch, which is the center of operations to keep the tracks clear between Crewe and Carlisle this fall.

Six trains will be used to carry out the essential work, including five multi-purpose vehicles or MPVs which operate from Wigan and one Rail Head Treatment or RHHT train which operates from Carlisle Kingmoor depot in Cumbria.

Leaves falling from trees create difficulty in running the railway as they fall and stick to wet rails and are then compressed by trains traveling over them, forming a thin black layer which causes problems with braking and drivability. ‘acceleration. Other problems are also caused for flagmen, as the buildup of leaf mulch can make it difficult to detect a train’s position, which can lead to delays. The problematic leaf fall season is likened by the rail industry to black ice on the roads.

Fall processing train in a siding at Wigan Springs branch depot // Credit: Network Rail

Specialized trains will clean the tracks using high-pressure water jets before applying a sand-like texture gel that supports the wheels of passenger and freight trains to grip the tracks. 77 Traction gel applicators have also been installed throughout the network.

Following the trains and traction gel applicators, specialist teams will also be in action across the North West to check if treatments are working and provide additional support if needed.

The North West route saw Network Rail spend £5million in autumn 2021 in an effort to keep passengers and freight moving.

Dave Shawcross, Network Rail’s seasons delivery manager, said: ‘Leaves on the line are a big problem for the railway. It disrupts services and hinders the movement of people and every year Network Rail and rail operators work together to battle the elements to get passengers and freight to their destinations.

“We are ready to keep people and goods moving in the Northwest by providing reliable service to our customers when they return to rail as a safe and environmentally friendly means of transportation. »

Rob Cummings, Seasonal Enhancement Manager at Northern, said: “We are working hard as an industry to keep leaves off the line and minimize disturbance during the autumn period.

“We have introduced special timings on problem routes to give our customers a more reliable service and our drivers also have advanced training to help develop techniques that further reduce the impact of slippery rails. We are also helping to develop a innovative new technology that will reduce the impact of leaves on the line.

Jerry Farquharson, Service Planning Manager at TransPennine Express, said: “Autumn conditions, including wet weather combined with leaves on the line, can create challenging conditions which can cause disruption and delays to our clients.

“Our modern trains are all equipped with devices that spray sand onto the tracks to provide extra grip, but despite this our drivers sometimes have to adapt their driving style and slow down. We continue to work closely with our partners in the industry, including Network Rail, for customers to travel and recommend anyone traveling to check their journey before travelling.

To find out more about how Network Rail deals with leaves on the track, please visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/leaves

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