Game-changing research by engineers on a test track at Melton may have solved the long-running issue of ‘leaves on the line’ which has delayed generations of train passengers.
Every autumn in the UK there are average delays to rail journeys of 350,000 minutes because trains can’t grip the tracks due to leaves falling and sticking to them.
Trains are equipped with technology to blast sand between the wheel and the rail but the issue still persists and, aside from causing delays, it can also lead to stations being overrun and signals being dangerously passed.
But researchers at Melton’s Rail Innovation and Development Centre have carried out trials lasting three months with a system where variable amounts of sand were blasted on to the rail depending on the speed and from more locations along the train formation.
The results have caused a stir in the rail industry with the new technology proving to dramatically improve braking distances by around 50 per cent on a four-car train compared to the current fixed-rate sander, when there are low adhesion problems.
Paul Gray, professional lead on engineering research and development for the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), which conducted the trials, told the Melton Times: “The tests have shown this will significantly improve the braking of trains when there are low adhesion issues on the tracks.
“For various reasons there can be low adhesion issues throughout the year, not just in the autumn with leaves on the line, so this is very important research.”
RSSB engineers carried out 220 test runs at the purpose-built Melton site, which boasts a 13-mile high-speed test track between Melton Junction and Edwalton, capable of carrying trains at speeds of up to 125mph.
Mr Gray said his organisation was working with train companies to carry out pilot fitment of the new technology, and it could start being used on fleets across the network from next year.