Saturday 20 Nov 2004


Region & Route:
Scotland’s Railway: Scotland
Leaves on the line are no laughing matter;  they are a serious safety issue for railways across Europe. Network Rail is investing £3.5 million pounds in Scotland to combat the problem of leaf fall ensuring trains run safely and on time during the autumn months. Ron McAulay, Route Director, Scotland at Network Rail said:  “Autumn is always a challenging time for the railways and while we cannot eliminate the effects of Mother Nature, we do take enormous steps to minimise them as much as possible.” The majority of Scotland’s 1,750 route miles is nestled within dense trees and foliage which shed their leaves over a ten week period during autumn.  This causes severe safety and performance problems for railways. Ron McAulay added:  “A great deal of planning, time and money is invested in ensuring that we maintain the highest levels of safety and performance during this difficult period.” Wet leaves fall onto the rail and are crushed by train wheels, which then turn the leaves into a hard, Teflon-like surface on top of the rail.  This can cause trains to slip and slide and is the railways’ equivalent of black ice on the roads.  Leaves can also cause track circuit failure and both of these problems can lead to safety concerns and train delays. Network Rail adopts a number of measures to combat the issue of ‘leaves on the line’ in Scotland: ·         5 sandite treatment trains run throughout Scotland, clocking up thousand of miles during the ten-week autumn period ·         Twelve, dedicated, two-man leaf busting teams operate six nights a week ·         39 static sandite applicators.  For the first time Network Rail is piloting smaller portable sandite applicators in Scotland.  We have 12,000 litres of traction gel for the sandite machines. ·         Use of special treatments – 7,500 litres of Orange Cleanse (environmentally-friendly product that dissolves leaf mulch) ordered to use in 25 litre back pack sprayers applicators ·         A total of 29 petrol driven rail head scrubbing machines ·         40 trigger hand operated double-wheeled sand sticks which spread sand and Orange Cleanse onto the railhead
  • Proactive programme of vegetation management to reduce the number of leaves around the railway
  • Frequent leaf fall and wind throw forecasts provided by the Met Office throughout Autumn, in addition to daily weather forecasts
  • Leaf fall checks throughout the night
·         A mobile sandite applicator (the only one in Scotland) which travels on the West Highland Line, dispersing sandite on the rails.  It normally operates between Crianlarich and Ardlui and Arrocher and Tarbet to Helensburgh Upper

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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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