Monday 20 Oct 2003
BE PREPARED - NETWORK RAIL’S AUTUMN MOTTO
- Region & Route:
“Leaves on the line” – the seasonal headline that captures the imagination. Well, it is not a joke but a very real problem for the railways and Network Rail’s East Anglia Region has been planning for autumn since the New Year.
The majority of the region’s 1,250 route miles is nestled in the countryside among trees and foliage that is resplendent in the summer months. All the while a whole team is working behind the scenes planning for the oncoming leaf fall season.
This year, not only do we have purpose-built leaf-busting vehicles, but also a whole range of unique equipment to combat what Mother Nature throws at us.
The railway network is vulnerable from the effects of what we call “low adhesion.”
Wet leaves fall onto the rail and are crushed by train wheels, which then turns the leaves into a hard, Teflon-like surface on top of the rail. This can cause trains to slip and slide. This problem is the railways’ equivalent of black ice on the road. Leaves can also cover the track to an extent that it causes a track circuit failure, where the electrical contact between the wheel and the track is lost. Both of these problems can lead to safety concerns and severe train delays.
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The storm on 27 October 2002 proved what a problem leaf fall can be when it is estimated that more than 25% of the total leaves fell in one day. Nationally, Signals Passed at Danger rose, trains overran stations, track circuit failures increased and performance decreased. The effects of the storm were so severe that no amount of machinery or men could have cleared the rails.
There is no easy solution, but technology and forward planning will help and East Anglia has numerous measures in place:
· Proactive programme of vegetation management – this year we are spending £1.5m on autumn vegetation clearance
· The region has seven dedicated Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) which will clock up thousands of miles over 10 weeks. MPVs carry 1,400 litres of sandite and spread 16 litres per mile. Nationally, Network Rail has ordered 3.5m litres of sandite
· Use of special treatments: 500 litres of Nutrasolve/Orange Cleanse (environmentally-friendly products that dissolve leaf mould) have been ordered.
· Trial of coloured sandite gel at certain sites across the region so drivers can see rail has been treated
· 14 traction gel applicators operated by trains travelling over the applicators
· 2,500 litres of Traction gel has been ordered
· Eight petrol driven scrubbing machines (ERCUs)
· Six new pneumatic tandem sticks ordered which dissolve leaves then spreads sandite in one movement
The main plan of attack is to get the leaves off the lines as quickly as possible, giving them less chance to settle. This is carried out by a fleet of Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPVs). East Anglia Region has seven MPVs and they travel around the network day and night, firstly spraying a high-powered water jet on the track to clear the leaves and then spreading sand over the rail to increase adhesion. The effectiveness of the sanding system to improve braking performance in low adhesion conditions is critical for operational safety.
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If the MPV is unable to clear the leaf mould or a problem area is not covered by the MPV a Network Rail member of staff will use alternative techniques, such as a pneumatic tandem sticks, nutrasolve and rail scrubbing, and automatic traction gel application. More than 100 regional staff have been trained in these techniques and will be prepared, out on the ground, as soon as the weather turns.
Mark Phillips, Regional Director, Network Rail said:
“Autumn is a very real problem for the railway industry and this year we have invested in excess of £5 million and a great deal of time into combating the problems Mother Nature throws at us.”
If you would like to see an MPV, have a go at rail scrubbing or applying sandite – please contact Jenny Sacre in the press office on 020 7904 4043.
· An MPV is manned by two people, the driver and the operator. It runs at 30mph when treating the line.
· The MPVs start running on 6 October 2003 and will be in the following stations, weekdays, at the times below:
§ Wymondham 12.23-13.10
§ Southend Victoria 12.11 – 12.35
§ Cambridge 11.51 – 13.25
§ Southend Central 14.16 – 15.32
About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.
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