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Fallen leaves causing rail delays

Train passengers have experienced travel delays as the seasonal falling of leaves has caused the usual problem of slippery rails.

On Tuesday, December 10, trains were experiencing delays on the Wrexham to Bidston line in Wales, with one train even being cancelled. Trains in Greater Anglia also experienced delays, although signalling problems and a shortage of trains were also cited as contributing factors.

According to a tweet from Network Rail, the problem with leaves arises because:

“As the leaves settle onto the tracks, trains pass over them again and again. This frequency and pressure compacts the leaves into a smudgy, slippery layer on the rail head.”

It added that the slippery rails makes it harder for the trains to effectively brake and accelerate. This then has the consequence of drivers, for the sake of safety, needing to accelerate from stations more gently and brake sooner as they approach stations and other stopping points. This inevitably makes journeys take longer, but in extreme cases, it can even make a line unusable.

Of course, there are ways to mitigate this. Unlike with many lubricant products for the rail sector, such as those from Morris Lubricants, the challenge is to increase friction rather than reduce it. A simple solution is to blast the leaf residue off the line, but this often means the problem reoccurs when new leaves fall onto the rails. Another solution involves installing traction gel applicators at the lineside in problem stretches, such as before and after stations.

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