Autumn investment and action to reduce delays

Thursday, 14 December 2017

We are taking action to minimise disruption caused by slippery rails during the Autumn. Working with Network Rail we are investing in innovative new track-cleaning equipment to reduce delays and disruption to services. Some timetables have also been changed so that services can run smoothly during the autumn and winter months.

Autumn is traditionally a difficult time for the railways, bringing wet weather and leaf mulch that sticks to the track then gets compressed and hardened by train wheels, creating a slippery layer that behaves like black ice. Train wheels lose grip and can be damaged. The mulch can also cause electrical faults. All of this can cause delays.

Network Rail will put six specialist trains in circulation to clean the tracks and remove vegetation. However, these trains can’t reach the track between Marks Tey and Sudbury so with Network Rail we have invested in a specially-adapted Land Rover, known as a Sand Rover, which will clean and treat that stretch of track. The Sand Rover is adapted to drive onto the railway, lower rail wheels onto the rails and clean the line.

A rail track cleaning vehicle

We have also invested in a mobile wheel lathe at the Norwich depot to fix train wheels damaged as a result of slippery rails so trains don’t have to be sent away. As a result any damaged trains will be repaired and returned to service faster, resulting in less disruption for passengers.

Other measures that have been put in place include:

  • From Monday 17th October, Salhouse, Brundall Gardens and Roughton Road, on the Wherry Line between Norwich and Sheringham, will temporarily become ‘request stop only’. This helps to maintain the scheduled service and prevent wheel damage with reduced wear at sites known for poor adhesion in autumn.
  • Trains for London depart five minutes earlier than usual during the morning peak from Monday 17th October to help maintain arrival times into London.
  • Trains on the regional routes in Norfolk and Suffolk will undergo modifications to improve their automatic sanders that deposit sand onto the rail when the brakes are applied, to prevent the train wheels slipping.
  • All trains have been fitted with a monitoring system that reports when and where a train experiences slipping. The data will be used by Network Rail engineers to find and clean the affected track as quickly as possible.
  • Network Rail will continue to clear lineside vegetation where it might compromise signals and level crossings and otherwise cause problems.
  • Network Rail will run six rail head treatment trains each day and night during the autumn season. These clean the rails and apply sand-like substance to the rail to improve grip. Engineers will visit areas that can’t be accessed by the rail head treatment train.
  • Additional slots have also been booked at other wheel lathe locations to fix trains quickly if a number of trains were to suffer wheel damage.