Why Leaves on Railway Tracks are Dangerous

Why Leaves on Railway Tracks are Dangerous

The idea of ‘leaves on the line’ causing delays to rail services seems absurd. In fact, it sounds like a worn out and overused national excuse for terrible service. But did you know that these leaves pose a safety risk to all passengers and staff aboard any rail services which go ahead?

Roughly 2.5 million trees line the railway lines in Britain and as autumn creeps closer, those 2.5 million trees will be losing their leaves directly onto our tracks. In fact, every autumn, thousands of tons of leaves fall onto the tracks. As they are compacted by the trains, the moist leaves form a smooth and very slippery layer which quite literally sticks to the tracks.

This sticky layer means that’s the trains which do operate need to accelerate and break more gently than they would if conditions were normal, resulting in delays. This sticky layer also causes low railhead adhesion, which simply means that the train wheels slip of the rails.

In extreme cases, leaves on the line can render some tracks unusable which means that services are cancelled. Trees which cause the most issue include sycamore, ash and poplar as these have large flat leaves which can sick to the surface of the rail tracks and cause the slippery dangers.

Interestingly, there are currently 55 leaf removal trains and 80 teams working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to remove the leaves which pose safety risks on our tracks. They keep 22,000 miles’ worth of tracks clear from leaves debris using high pressured water jets.

If your train is delayed by 30 minutes or more this autumn with leaf related issues, you could be owed train delay compensation. Get in contact with Trains from Hell to find out more

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