Network Rail and Merseyrail ready to tackle leaves on the line

Published on : Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Network-Rail-300x150Autumn – and in particular the impact of leaf fall on the network – is a challenging time for the rail industry as it works to tackle the challenges raised and keep as many trains as possible running safely and on time.

Compressed leaves on the rails form a non-stick type substance which makes starting and stopping trains more difficult.


Needing more time and distance to stop or start a train can result in disruption to the timetable and delays to passengers.

Each year millions of pounds is spent across Britain to prepare for and deal with the issue and this year Network Rail and Merseyrail are working even closer to tackle the problem.

Preparation for autumn started earlier this year and a range of methods to monitor, prevent and remove leaves from the railway are now being used around the network in the Merseyside area.


They include new technology to assess the condition of the track as well as sophisticated weather and leaf-fall monitoring, daily treatment of the rails by special trains and leaf-clearance.

The technology being used on the Merseyrail network for the first time is called a tribometer, a handheld device which accurately measures how slippery the rails are.

Data from the tribometer is used to assess the effectiveness of treatments already applied and help inform whether further action is required.


This is complemented by special treatment trains, operated by Network Rail, which jet-wash and treat the rails to remove any build-up of compressed leaves.

Ian Joslin, area director for Network Rail, said: “Leaves on the line pose a significant challenge to the rail industry, not just in Britain but around the world.


In partnership with Merseyrail we have been able to channel our efforts and use a combination of old and new ways of working to minimise the impact as much as possible.

“Throughout autumn we will continue to monitor and prepare for leaf fall and are well placed to react to deal with the issue.


Passengers can be assured we have invested a lot of time, money and knowledge to do all we can to keep them moving.”

Maarten Spaargaren, managing director of Merseyrail, said: ‘Autumn is a difficult season on the railway, and can often mean a less reliable service for customers.


We’re determined to deal with this and keep disruption to an absolute minimum.’

Network Rail has undertaken a programme of vegetation management to reduce the volume of leaves alongside the railway and Merseyrail drivers are being given extra advice and instruction about how best to control trains on slippery rails.

To make stopping easier for drivers at stations which are known to suffer from the impact of leaves on the line, trains will stop at different positions at five stations on the network from today (6 October).


The stations are Aigburth, Capenhurst, Formby, Freshfield and Spital and the temporary arrangements will be in place for three months.


Signs will on the platform to indicate where passengers can board.


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