On track for autumn: Scotland's Railway adopts leaf-busting technology

On track for autumn: Scotland's Railway adopts leaf-busting technology
© networkrail.co.uk

The railway is committed to minimizing the disruption caused by leaves on the tracks and maintaining a smooth journey for passengers and freight.


Scotland's Railway is preparing for the challenges of autumn by using the latest technology, timetable adjustments, and specialist leaf-busting trains to ensure passengers and freight can keep moving. Network Rail’s 18 leaf-fall teams and its fleet of seven leaf-busting trains will work around the clock to keep trains on the move, reducing delays during this challenging period. Leaves on the tracks pose similar challenges to black ice on roads, causing trains to lose traction and increasing braking distances. This can cause trains to run over signals or platforms and disrupt signaling systems.

© networkrail.co.uk
© networkrail.co.uk

“Each autumn, thousands of tonnes of leaves fall from trees on to railway infrastructure, which can create a challenging environment. Wet weather and passing trains can cause leaves to break down into a slippery surface on the line which result in train wheels losing grip, making it harder for them to stop quickly – similar to black ice on the roads,” said David Simpson, service delivery director at ScotRail.

To combat these issues, specialist rail-head treatment trains (RHTTs) and multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) will cover more ground than ever before. They will make their debut on the Airdrie-Bathgate route and extend their work on the Highland Main Line. These vehicles use high-pressure water jets to clean the rails before applying a sand gel to improve the grip of the train wheels. In addition, the leaf-fall teams will be experimenting with 'hydrophobic' sand, which was used successfully in the south-east of England last year. This sand sticks to the rails, giving trains better traction.

© networkrail.co.uk
© networkrail.co.uk

Among the new solutions is a cryogenic train to be tested in the Edinburgh area. This train will shoot dry ice pellets onto the tracks, causing the leaves to crack and detach, leaving a clean, dry surface for the trains to grip.

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