Belfast Telegraph

Leaves on tracks costing Translink £450k per year

Trains can be delayed by fallen leaves
Trains can be delayed by fallen leaves
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The battle to tackle disruption caused by leaves on train tracks in Northern Ireland is well under way - at an annual cost of £450,000.

Hundreds of tonnes of leaves fall onto Northern Ireland's railway lines each autumn, which then compress under the weight of trains and make the tracks slippery.

This results in trains accelerating gently and needing greater braking distances, leading to longer journey times.

Additional line maintenance is carried out throughout the autumn months to remove leaves from the tracks, while drivers undergo training to deal with adverse weather conditions.

Translink NI's Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) engineering train cleans the tracks with a high pressure water jet, before applying a layer of sand and gel - Sandite - to improve grip.

The annual cost of operating the MPV, which was acquired in 2017, and purchasing 60,000 litres of Sandite is approximately £450,000.

NI Railways head of rail infrastructure engineering Jim Moore said more than 300 miles of tracks are kept clear during the leaf fall season. Tree and hedge cutting is also carried out earlier in the year to help resolve the problem.

"Tackling low adhesion caused by leaf fall is just one part of our autumn and winter weather programme," he said.

"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."

In order to try and adhere to train timetables, Translink NI also keeps a record of 'known areas of low adhesion', which are historically the worst affected by leaf fall.

Translink also receives specialist forecasts to identify areas at risk of heaviest leaf fall.

Mr Moore added: "We would urge passengers to check our social media channels, the Translink Journey Planner App and www.translink.co.uk for up to date travel information."

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