Leaf fall period 2013 - timetable adjustments
Autumn presents a huge challenge for rail operators, with some routes particularly vulnerable to poor rail conditions due to leaf fall. Leaves fallen on the line, compressed by passing trains become a slippery, resin-like substance that is difficult to remove and creates greasy track conditions much like black ice on the road. And in the mornings, with frosty, wet and cold conditions, the leaves can form an insulating barrier between the power in the third rail and the train, which can affect the train’s running speed. Starting the early morning services a few minutes earlier helps minimise the knock-on effect of any delays and allows drivers time to adapt to the driving conditions.
- Why are 'leaves on the line' such a problem?
- Why is my train affected but other routes are fine?
- What are you doing to prevent the problem?
- What does it mean to me?
- Network Rail has all this equipment and my timetable has been altered but my train is still delayed?
- Download leaf fall alteration timetables
Autumn and falling leaves are a challenge for railways all over the world. Leaves, fallen onto the line, compressed by passing trains, become a slippery, hard, resin-like substance that is difficult to remove. This leaf mulch creates conditions similar to black ice on the roads which means our train drivers must take extra precautions; such as braking and accelerating slowly, just as you would in your car and this can lead to delays.
The leaf mulch also blocks the power supply in the third rail, meaning the trains can’t draw enough power to move at normal speeds.
Some areas of the network have more trees along the track and are therefore considered 'hot spots' by Network Rail who look after the railway infrastructure. These are usually rural routes or routes with high numbers of the six most problematic trees which appear to thrive by the railway: Ash, Sycamore, Poplar, Lime, Sweet Chestnut and Horse Chestnut. (Did you know that the average mature tree can have up to 50,000 leaves?)
Network Rail works hard to cut back tree branches and plants along the trackside and has specialist vehicles to keep the tracks clear during autumn. However, despite their best efforts, in wet, cold and frosty weather conditions it’s inevitable that problems will still be experienced.
Some of the equipment Network Rail use are:
- Railhead treatment trains - which blast the tracks with water, then coat them with an adhesive gel for grip
- Traction gel applicators – which is equipment on some tracks that senses a train approaching and applies adhesive gel to the track for grip
Southeastern makes changes to the timetable, which factors in the need for drivers to adjust the way they drive the train during these conditions. This is to give you greater certainty about the length of your journey; and we hope this'll ensure that you arrive at your destination on time.
Some early morning services have been retimed to depart a few minutes earlier, mainly towards London.
Network Rail has all this equipment and my timetable has been altered but my train is still delayed?
Southeastern operates on the most congested and complex network in the whole of the UK. Any train delay can have a knock-on effect for the whole network. Our staff, together with Network Rail, will do their best to get the service back on track as quickly as possible, and we will also inform you of any alternative routes that you can use.
If your journey with us is delayed by 30 minutes or more, you can claim compensation under our 'Delay Repay' scheme irrespective of what caused the delay.
High Speed (London to the Medway towns, Ashford International and Kent)
Mainline 1 (Kent Mainline)
Mainline 2 (Maidstone Mainline and Medway Valley line)
Mainline 3 (Kent Mainline via Chatham)
Mainline 4 (Kent Mainline via Ashford International)
Mainline 5 (Hastings Mainline via Tunbridge Wells)
Metro 7 (Dartford and Gravesend Metro lines)
Metro 8 (Hayes Metro line)
Metro 9 (Orpington and Sevenoaks via Grove Park Metro lines)
Metro 10 (Orpington and Sevenoaks via Bromley South Metro lines)
The photos below show two of the special trains that Network Rail use to clear the leaf mulch from tracks.