Northern warns customers that leaves on the line still a problem

Northern is warning rail passengers that autumn conditions and leaves on the line remain a problem this year.

Sunday, 25th October 2020, 7:00 am
Network Rail autumn preparations at Slateford Depot in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

However, Northern has said it is working hard to minimise the impact on customers.

Rob Cummings, Northern’s seasonal performance improvement manager, said: “We have experienced some issues relating to autumn conditions, but the majority of leaves are still on the trees and so more difficult conditions are likely as we move towards November.

“The debris from falling leaves can cause significant disruption to the network. Leaves stick to damp rails and passing trains compress them into a smooth, slippery layer, reducing trains’ grip.

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“Leaves can also cause damage to train wheels which mean the carriage has to be taken out of service and the wheel repaired before the problem becomes more serious.

“To keep disruption to a minimum we’re working hard to keep the tracks in the best possible condition. Our trains are fitted with sand blasters which treat the tracks as they move, and Network Rail has leaf busting maintenance trains which blast water and sand onto the tracks to remove leaves and provide more grip for passenger and freight trains.”

“We have also introduced special timetables on problematic routes and our drivers also have advanced training to help develop techniques which further reduce the impact of slippery rails.”

Northern also works in partnership with Network Rail to keep customers moving. This year, 179 track gel applicators have been positioned across the region’s rail network. They spray a special sand-like gel onto the rails to help provide extra grip for train wheels.

Specialist teams will be positioned across the North West to check that the autumn treatment programme is working effectively and provide additional support where necessary.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “Leaves on the line are a big problem for the railway. It disrupts services and inconveniences passengers and every year, Network Rail and train operators work together to battle against the elements to get passengers and freight to their destinations.

“Even more work has gone into getting prepared for autumn this year because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, including how we operate the trains themselves. We are ready to keep people and goods moving across the North West by running a safe and reliable service for our customers.”