Travellers on Britain's rail network will be all too familiar with the annual cause of delays due to "leaves on the line".
They stick to damp rails and passing trains compress them into a thin, black layer on the rail which - much like black ice on the roads - can affect train braking and acceleration. This means train drivers must slow down earlier for stations and signals to avoid overshooting them. They must also accelerate more gently to avoid wheel spin. All this can increase journey time and lead to delays.
Equipped with a high-pressure pump, the leaf-busting trains clean the railheads by spraying it with a water jet at very high pressure (1500 bar) to blast away leaf mulch, clearing the tracks and helping the signalling system to work correctly. They then apply a layer of adhesion modifier - a mixture of suspension gel, sand and steel or iron shot - to the rail to aid traction and help trains run like they normally would.
This week Network Rail kicks off a programme, utilizing 61 specialist trains and vehicles to minimise the impact of leaf fall. Network Rail's fleet will cover a distance of more than four times around the earth to ensure the UK rail network remains safe during autumn.
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