Translink tackles leaves on the line to minimise disruption to trains

The head of rail infrastructure engineering at NI Railways Jim Moore has explained how workers are busy clearing tracks of leaves this autumn to ensure potential delays are prevented or minimised.

By Kevin Mullan
Monday, 18th October 2021, 11:54 am
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 11:56 am

Hundreds of tonnes of leaves fall onto railway lines at this time of year and can get compressed under the wheels of passing trains, said Mr. Moore.

This makes the tracks slippery - similar to how cars are affected by black ice.

Mr. Moore said: “We receive detailed specific leaf fall forecasts which predict when the heaviest leaf fall will occur. During particularly windy or storm conditions, large amounts of leaves can come down at once, often in a short space of time.

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Translink's special Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) engineering train

“Our drivers undergo training in how to deal with adverse weather conditions such as leaves on the line, as it means trains need to accelerate gently out of stations and allow longer braking distances for signals, much like driving a car in ice or snow.

“Each year during leaf fall season, our teams clear around 25 thousand miles of track. We purchase around 60,000 litres of Sandite, a sandy, gel like substance, which helps prevent wheel slip. Our track scrubbers are also out in force, keeping the rails clean. We also take preventative measures earlier in the year, with tree and hedge cutting beside railways to try and limit the amount of foliage.”

A Special Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) engineering train cleans the tracks with a high-pressure water jet. A layer of Sandite is then applied to improve grip.

This runs in addition to scheduled trains, many of which are equipped with measures to combat low adhesion such as wheel slip protection and sanders, said Mr. Moore.

“As well as posters in stations and on our trains, we have videos and information on our website and social media channels which reminds our passengers how they can keep up to date with service information this autumn.

“Tackling low adhesion caused by leaf fall is just one part of our autumn and winter weather programme. Additional measures include the provision of points heaters which come on during low temperatures to prevent them from freezing.

"We would like to assure our customers that we do all we can to keep services running on time and minimise delays. We would urge passengers to check the Translink Journey Planner App, our website www.Translink. and our social media accounts for up to date travel information.”