Thursday 20 Oct 2005


Region & Route:
| Wales & Western: Wales & Borders
| Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western
More water-jetting trains and leaf-busting teams than ever before will be helping to get passengers travelling along the route between London Paddington to Swansea and the West Country to work on time this autumn.  They will be out across the Western network tackling the problem that affects railways around the world – leaves on the line. A fleet of seven ‘leaf-busting’ trains will be shooting out water at an equivalent pressure of 1,000/bar (up to 1,000 times faster than the water coming out of your tap) getting rid of ‘leaf mulch’ – the railway equivalent of black ice on the roads – off the track where it forms a hard Teflon-like coating on the rail causing trains to slip and slide, which results in train delays, and can also damage both track and train. Robbie Burns, Network Rail’s Western Route Director, said: “We started planning our autumn campaign a year ago and are working closely with the train operating companies to minimise the impact.  We have spent at least £2.8 million on this year’s campaign and will be covering almost 25,000 miles of track throughout the season.” Methods that are being used to tackle the ‘black ice’ of the rail industry across the Western route include:
  • Rapid response teams strategically located across the route, using railhead scrubbers, sand and Natrusolve, which dissolves the leaf mulch
  • Daily leaf-fall predictions based on wind throw and weather forecasts
  • A dedicated Weather Strategy Co-ordinator who is responsible for co-ordinating the campaign, supported by a dedicated ‘leaf-busting’ unit in London
  • 11 Static Sandite Applicators that dispense sandite along the track
  • Over 400 miles of track will be treated daily, compared to 280 last year
  Robbie concludes: “We will never entirely beat Mother Nature but we’re as prepared as we possibly can be.”

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