Passengers on rural branch lines have suffered less disruption due to ‘leaves on the line’ so far this autumn.
Train operator, Greater Anglia has reported a 4% improvement in the punctuality of branch line services, compared to this time last year – despite leaves falling at a faster rate.
The operator says that a number of measures put in place with Network Rail to keep the rails clear of leaves – which make rails as slippery as black ice – have resulted in fewer delays with a new £500K braking system on branch line trains having the biggest impact.
Like ABS on cars, the new system stops train wheels locking when braking so that they do not become damaged in slippery conditions. This is fitted to most of Greater Anglia’s fleet, and for the first time this year has been fitted to nine Class 156 trains which operate on the branch lines.
Greater Anglia’s Head of Performance and Planning, Keith Palmer, commented: “We’re pleased that the work to fit new brakes to our branch line trains is already helping to improve performance meaning fewer delays for passengers. The first two weeks of November are traditionally when we see the most delays due to leaves on the line, so we are not complacent and will be continuing to work with Network Rail to tackle leaves on the line as the season progresses.”
Other measures to tackle leaves on the line include clearing trees and bushes away from the lineside; using a Railhead Treatment Train to jet leaf mulch off the rails using a high pressure spray; using automatic sanders fitted to trains which deposit sand onto the rail, cleaning the rail and helping the train to grip; using real time data sent from the train’s on board computer to the Greater Anglia control room to target slippery areas of track; and the installation of an additional wheel lathe at Norwich Crown Point depot to quickly repair any wheels that are damaged by slippery rails. The Class 156s should not need to visit the lathe as often now that they have had WSP fitted, making branch lines services more reliable.
Maliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “We have been working together with Greater Anglia on a package of works that aims to keep train services running as smoothly as possible this autumn and winter. We understand the inconvenience caused when problems occur, and our engineers will be doing everything they can to keep passengers moving.”