Watch: Greater Anglia and Network Rail team up to beat leaves on the line

Greater Anglia and Network Rail have linked up to battle leaves on the line. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Greater Anglia and Network Rail have linked up to battle leaves on the line. Picture: NETWORK RAIL - Credit: Archant

Greater Anglia and Network Rail have started a two-pronged attack on one of the greatest problems facing autumn rail travellers – leaves on the line.

The rail company has upgraded its last few single-carriage trains to try to ensure there are no problems with wheels slipping while Network Rail has sent out special trains to try to clear leaves from tracks and cut back vegetation.

The Anglia rail network has over 1,426 miles of track, much of which is surrounded by trees and vegetation.

Leaves cause problems on the rail network when they stick to damp rails and passing trains compress them into a smooth, slippery, layer reducing wheel grip – much like black ice on the roads.

To keep passengers safe, train drivers must brake earlier when approaching stations and signals to avoid overshooting their stop. They must also accelerate more gently to avoid wheel spin. All this can increase journey time and leads to delays for passengers.

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During the autumn of 2015 there were serious problems across the region as many of Greater Anglia’s rural trains had to be repaired because of wheel damage caused by leaves.

To combat the issues of leaves on the line, Network Rail has a leaf-busting plan to keep trains moving which includes:

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• five treatment-trains will clock up thousands of miles as they complete circuits of Anglia’s rail network, cleaning the tracks with high powered water jets and applying a layer of gel which helps train wheels grip the track.

• ‘leaf-busting’ teams of engineers will carry out daily inspections and clean the tracks by hand where necessary

• a ‘sand-rover’, a rail-adapted road vehicle specifically designed to scrub the tracks with brushes and apply a layer of gel to treat the Sudbury branch line during peak leaf-fall season

• teams of engineers working all year round to manage vegetation around the railway

Greater Anglia is fitting its successful anti-slip ‘Wheel Slide Protection’ to its single-carriage Class 153 trains which are the only ones left that do not have it.

After a successful trial last year, the completion of the £500K project to Class 156 trains saw the train operator record its best-ever autumn performance.

Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “Autumn is a very real problem for the railway industry and our teams of engineers will be working around the clock across the region to keep the tracks clear and keep people on the move. Our teams will be monitoring leaf-fall as always in order to tackle high risk areas before they become a problem for trains.”

Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, Jamie Burles, commented, “We are acutely aware of the frustration and inconvenience felt by our passengers when things go wrong, so we are pleased to be taking action in partnership with Network Rail, making additional preparations to protect train services during what is traditionally a difficult period on the railway. We will be doing all we can, as ever, to make lives a little easier for our passengers, getting them from a to b reliably, on time and in comfort.”

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