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Leaf busting trains now out 24 hours a day on Midlands rail routes

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A special fleet of ‘leaf-busting’ trains have started blasting leaves off the line to help keep passengers and freight moving across the West Midlands and Chiltern main line this autumn.

From 1 October until 13th December, seven specialist trains will wash leaf debris from a total of 91,195 miles of track across the region while trees are shedding their leaves. The seasonal delivery depot at Kings Norton is the nerve centre for keeping tracks in the West Midlands, West Coast main line to Euston, and Chiltern main line to Marylebone, clear this autumn.

Three trains known as MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) will operate from the Kings Norton depot, with another called an RHHT (rail head treatment train) operating from Banbury. The total miles of track treated over this time will be equivalent to going almost four times around the equator.

After railway lines have been cleared with high pressure water jets, the machines then apply rails with a glue-like coating to help passenger and freight train wheels grip the tracks.

Regarded as the railway’s equivalent of black ice on the roads, leaves on the line can create issues when they stick to damp rails and are compressed by moving trains into a thin, black layer which can affect train braking and acceleration. The build-up of leaf mulch can also make it harder for signallers to detect a train’s location, causing delays.

Martin Colmey, operations director for Network Rail’s Central route, said: “Even more work has gone into getting prepared for autumn this year because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, including how we operate the trains themselves. We are ready to keep people and goods moving across the West Midlands and Chiltern Main line running a safe and reliable service for our customers.”