In fact, a build-up of leaves is more likely to stick to the rails. The heat and weight of trains passing over the leaves bakes them into a slippery layer, meaning trains run slower
The impact of leaves on the line
With millions of trees next to the railway across Britain, thousands of tonnes of leaves drop onto the tracks during windy conditions in the autumn.
When there is heavy leaf-fall in a short space of time, the heat and weight of trains passing over the leaves bakes them into a thin, slippery layer on the tracks. This layer is as slippery as ice, making it difficult for trains to accelarate and brake effectively.
To keep you safe, trains pull out of stations more slowly and brake earlier to ensure they stop in time. This can cause delays and longer journey times.
Reducing the impact of leaves on the railway
Network Rail has leaf-busting trains, which use jets to spray high-pressured water to remove as much leaf mulch as possible.
Leaf-busting trains also apply gel, consisting of a mix of sand and steel grains, helping train wheels run along the tracks as they normally would.
By monitoring the weather, Network Rail recieves a leaf-fall estimate that shows which areas will need most attention from the leaf-busting trains.
Maintaining plants and trees near the railway
Network Rail maintains the trees and plants growing next to the railway thoughout the year. This lineside management allows trains to safely operate and offers a reliable service for passengers while promoting natural biodiversity along the railway.