Industry leading innovation will improve reliability for passengers on Greater Anglia’s rural train services

Published on: Monday, 19 November 2018
Last updated: Monday, 19 November 2018

An innovative new train braking system – like ABS in cars – has been fitted to even more of Greater Anglia’s rural trains after it helped to greatly improve reliability last autumn.

‘Wheel Slide Protection’ (WSP) has been fitted to the train operator’s Class 153 trains – five single carriage trains which operate on rural services in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

WSP is a braking system which uses technology installed on the train to judge whether its wheels are slowing evenly when the train brakes.

This follows the successful installation on the company’s Class 156 trains last year, which led to Greater Anglia recording its best ever performance results for the Autumn period, and receiving the Engineering award at the Rail Industry Innovation Awards 2017.

During autumn, leaves compress and can become as slippery as black ice, altering braking and acceleration times, sometimes causing damage to train wheels, known as “wheel flats”.

Wheel flats must be removed on a wheel lathe, which returns the train wheel to a perfect circle again. This can involve the train being out of service for up to a week.

If several trains suffer from wheel flats at the same time, which can occur in adverse weather conditions particularly during the autumn, this can lead to disruption to passengers through a shortage of trains meaning that some services are cancelled.

Greater Anglia believes that by installing WSP on its Class 153 trains the number of rural services cancelled due to wheel flats will be reduced even further, resulting in even better performance this autumn.

It is already installed on all other types of train in its fleet.

Greater Anglia’s Norwich Technical Support Manager, Jason Mills, said, “This investment means that our Class 153 trains will be more reliable as they will not need to be taken out of service as often to visit the wheel lathe, and is a further investment to improve our passengers’ experience while we await the roll out of new trains from 2019.”

Jason Groombridge, Porterbrook’s Director of Engineering Services, said, “We are delighted to be able to work with our Greater Anglia colleagues on the design and installation of this innovative system. The fitment of WSP to class 153 units builds on a successful partnership which has already seen this technology installed on Greater Anglia’s 156 fleet.”

The Class 153 WSP project has been carried out in partnership with the train owners, Porterbrook, and the system’s designers, SNC-Lavalin, KBRS and Loram UK Ltd.

Greater Anglia and Network Rail are taking action to minimise disruption to rail passengers caused by slippery rails during the autumn through additional track cleaning equipment, vegetation removal, minor timetable adjustments, and an additional wheel lathe at Norwich Crown Point depot.

Autumn is traditionally a difficult time for the railways, bringing wet weather and falling leaves which can make the rails slippery.

Falling leaves create mulch that sticks to the track and gets compressed and hardened by train wheels into a Teflon-like layer.

This makes the track as slippery as black ice, so train wheels lose grip and in some cases become damaged. The mulch can also cause the electrical circuits on the tracks to fail, which can also cause delays.

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