Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Northern Train Trial to Solve Problem of Leaves on The Line

New technology to combat the age-old rail problem of leaves on the line is being deployed in Yorkshire.

Northern is fitting a system to 16 passenger trains which tackles slippery rails by spraying water onto them.

The Water Trak technology will be used on trains operating between Leeds, Harrogate and York, as well as between Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Scarborough.

Leaves cause major disruption every autumn when they stick to damp rails and become compressed by train wheels.

Rail lines have traditionally been cleaned using Railhead Treatment Trains (RHTT) which deploy high-pressure water jets followed by a gel containing sand and steel grain to boost adhesion.

But RHTTs are expensive to run, meaning some routes are left untreated.

Trains stop safely in heavy rain, so the new system recreates those conditions by dispensing a small amount of water when slippery rails are detected.

Rob Cummings, Northern's seasonal improvement manager, said rolling out the system to more trains is "the next step in finding a solution to tricky autumn conditions".

He said: "One of the biggest risks to our performance during October and November is leaves on the line, but by helping to develop new innovative technology we aim to deliver the very best service for our passengers."

The Water Trak systems, fitted to two Class 319 passenger service trains, functioned without problems through an entire autumn last year, covering over 37,000 miles and dispensing water 767 times. The trials demonstrated that water addition greatly improved braking performance in low adhesion conditions, significantly reducing the risk of station over-runs and other autumn incidents. Water-Trak has also been shown to provide a major improvement in traction.

John Cooke, who co-founded Water-Trak, said: "Leaves on the line may seem like a bit of a joke, or an excuse for bad performance, but actually it's a major issue for the rail industry.

"We are really excited to be working with Northern to show how Water-Trak can help to solve the age-old problem of leaves on the line."

Water Trak videos here