The ‘cold solution’ used by a rail company to remove leaves from the line.


The ‘cold solution’ used by a rail company to remove leaves from the line.

IT IS ONE OF THE MOST DESPIRED CAUSES OF RAILWAY DELAYS. However, rail executives claim they have discovered a more efficient way to remove leaves off the line: blasting dry ice onto the tracks.

Every autumn, tens of thousands of tons of leaves fall on the railway tracks in Britain, which are lined with tens of millions of trees.

Trains generate a slick layer when they pass over the leaves.

As a result of the delays and maintenance, the railway sector loses roughly £345 million each year.

Engineers at the University of Sheffield have invented a leafclearing technology, which will be tested on a passenger train by Northern in the coming weeks. Dry ice pellets are fired into a stream of air from a train, freezing and brittle foliage.

The dry ice then reverts to a gas, expanding and destroying the leaves.

Professor Roger Lewis, who is in charge of the project, said: “During the autumn, this technology will significantly improve train performance.

“It will increase train performance and reduce delays by providing more predictable braking and traction than present technology.

“It will be beneficial not only to passengers, but also to train operators and Network Rail. It will greatly simplify their lives.” Currently, 61 special trains remove the leaves with high-pressure water jets, followed by a gel comprising sand and steel grains to aid braking.

Engineers argue that their approach is far more efficient because it can be utilized by passenger trains that travel longer distances.

It also doesn’t leave a residue that can harm rails and wheels, and it can be used multiple times per day on the same piece of track.

The system has already been tested on test tracks and could be extensively used by 2023.

“One of the major hazards to our performance throughout October and November is leaves on the line,” said Rob Cummings, Northern’s seasonal improvement manager. “But by helping to develop new technology, we strive to give the absolute best service for our passengers.”


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