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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Translink keeping services on track by tackling “leaf fall” through Autumn

Translink’s ‘Leaf Buster’ train helping to keep services running safely

Translink’s ‘Leaf Buster’ train helping to keep services running safely

Translink teams are working hard this Autumn to minimise disruption to its services caused by leaves on the train line.


With thousands of trees beside Northern Ireland's rail network, every Autumn tonnes of leaves fall onto the railway tracks. These can get compressed under the wheels of passing trains, making the tracks slippery - similar to how cars are affected by black ice.


Safety is Translink's top priority and the track teams work hard 24/7 clearing around 25,000 miles of track each Leaf Fall season to keep services running smoothly.


NI Railways Head of Rail Infrastructure Engineering, Jim Moore said:

“We have a range of preventative measures in place, including track clearance and special driver training, as well as year-round tree maintenance. We also receive detailed specific leaf fall forecasts which predict when the heaviest leaf fall will occur. During particularly windy or stormy conditions, large amounts of leaves can come down at once, often in a short space of time.


“Our drivers receive special training in how to deal with adverse weather conditions such as leaves on the line, as it means trains need to accelerate gently out of stations and allow longer braking distances for signals, much like driving a car in ice or snow.


“Our special Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) engineering train cleans the tracks with a high-pressure water jet, before applying a layer of a sticky, gritty compound, Sandite, to improve grip. We use around 60 thousand litres of Sandite each year. The MPV operates in addition to scheduled trains, many of which are equipped with measures to combat low adhesion such as wheel slip protection and sanders. Our track scrubbers are also out in force, keeping the rails clean. We also take preventative measures earlier in the year, with tree and hedge cutting beside railways to try and limit the amount of foliage.


“As well as posters in stations and on our trains, we have videos and information on our website and social media channels which reminds our passengers how they can keep up to date with service information this autumn”.


Jim concluded:

“Tackling low adhesion caused by leaf fall is just one part of our autumn and winter weather programme. We have installed points heaters which come on during low temperatures to prevent them from freezing. We would like to assure our customers that we do all we can to keep services running on time and minimise delays.

The video below shows Translink’s MPV train in operation:

The video below shows Translink's leaf scrubbers in operation:

Translink has urged passengers to check the Translink Journey Planner App, website for up to date travel information.


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