Friday 1 Oct 2004


Region & Route:
Scotland’s Railway: Scotland
“Leaves on the line” – the seasonal headline that captures the imagination.  Well, it is not a joke but a very real problem for the railway and Network Rail’s Scotland route has been planning for autumn since the New Year. The majority of Scotland’s 1,750 route miles is nestled within dense 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 problem: 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.  more - 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. – The solution: There is no easy solution, but technology and forward planning helps and we have numerous measures in place: ·         This year Network Rail is spending £3.5m on autumn in Scotland ·        Scotland has 5 sandite treatment trains –  which will be run throughout Scotland and clock up thousands of miles over the ten-week autumn period, ·        Use of special treatments:  7,500 litres of Orange Cleanse (environmentally-friendly product that dissolves leaf mulch) have been ordered to use in 25 ltr back pack sprayers ·        39 static sandite applicators.  We have ordered 12,000 litres of traction gel for the sandite machines.  For the first time we are piloting  smaller portable sandite applicators and moving them around the country to be used in areas with greatest need which if successful will allow us to move it around the country to where it is needed most ·        A total of 29 petrol driven railhead scrubbing machines ·        40 trigger operated hand operated double-wheeled sand sticks which spread sand and Orange Cleanse onto the railhead The main plan of attack is to get the leaves off the lines as quickly as possible, and break down the leaf mulch regularly, giving them less chance to settle.  This is carried out by a fleet of special sandite treatment trains.  They travel around the network day and night, firstly spraying a 1000psi high-powered water jet on the rails to removes the leaves and then spreading sandite 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. more-            If the sandite treatment train is unable to remove the leaf mulch or a problem area is not covered by the train, a member of one of our dedicated ‘Leaf Busting Squads’ will use alternative techniques, such as Natrusolve, railhead scrubbers or sand sticks.  Scotland has twelve dedicated, two-man ‘Leaf Busting Squads’ who reactively deal with any areas with built up leaf mulch and proactively target key locations.  The squads work throughout the day and night, six days a week at locations known for low adhesion. It is hard to judge when the leaves will start falling, but the teams will be available around the clock from 3 October until 4 December. Ron McAulay, Route Director Scotland, Network Rail said:  “Autumn is a very real problem for the railway industry and this year in Scotland we have invested  £3.5 million and a great deal of time into combating the problems Mother Nature throws at us.  We have learned from the past few autumn’s and we are confident that our proactive approach will help to reduce any possible delays.” If you would like to see a sandite treatment train, interview our Weather Strategy Manager, have a go at rail scrubbing or applying sandite – please contact Alexis Burnett in the press office on 0141 555 4109. Notes for editors: ·        There are six species of trees which cause particular problems.  They are all deciduous, broad-leaved and thrive by the railway: §         Ash §         Sycamore §         Poplar §         Lime §         Sweet chestnut §         Horse chestnut

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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.

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