Specialist ‘railhead treatment’ trains are out in force across the railway in Wales and the Borders, as Network Rail’s and Arriva Trains Wales’ joint autumn plan steps up a gear, with teams of highly trained engineers ready to work 24/7 to help keep rail passengers moving this autumn.
The railhead treatment trains are designed to clear the top of the track (railhead) using high pressured water jets, aiding traction between track and train, and engineers are ready to ensure that trains are kept in service throughout the whole Autumn period.
Keeping passengers moving during autumn period is important, with 50% more passengers than a decade ago and a record number of train services running on the Wales and Borders rail network.
Arriva Trains Wales and Network Rail have been working together in preparation for autumn, with key activities including:
Deploying specialist railhead treatment trains. Network Rail has invested £2 million in specialist railhead treatment this year.
Combating slippery rail. The tracks are treated with a gel to help minimise the impact of leaf fall. In colder months the temperature of steel rail drops considerably, causing dew to form on the tracks. If the track is slippery, a train may also have to brake for longer or pull away more slowly than usual. With more rail services than ever before, a small delay can have a huge knock on effect.
Extra wheel maintenance. Arriva Trains Wales are adding extra life to the wheels on their trains, as well as investing in their wheel repair facilities. This increases train availability in the run up to, and during autumn.
More investment in training. Prior to autumn, train drivers have received additional training to help prepare them for the adverse weather autumn can bring. Arriva Trains Wales have also trained additional staff to use wheel repair equipment to maximise availability of trains.
Enhanced vegetation management. Network Rail has invested an additional £1.5 million in removing vegetation near the railway this year, as part of an enhanced approach targeting areas agreed with train drivers.
Bill Kelly, chief operating officer for Network Rail in Wales, said: “We understand how important the railway is to the economy in Wales and Borders. That is why we work 24/7, 365 days a year to make sure we have a safe and reliable railway.
“We are working with Arriva Trains Wales day in day out to make sure we keep passengers moving as quickly and safely as possible. We’d like to thank passengers for their patience and reassure them we are working as one railway to minimise the impact of any potential disruption.”
Lynne Milligan, customer services director for Arriva Trains Wales, said: “By working more closely than ever with our partners in Network Rail, we hope to minimise the impact of Autumn on our customers as much as possible.
“Autumn can be a difficult and unpredictable time on the railway, with the weather playing a huge part on our service delivery.
“Our customers deserve the safest and most reliable rail service we can give them, which is why our engineers are working 24/7 to keep as many of our carriages as possible in service.
“We have contingency plans in place to ensure that should we get bad weather and a big rise in the impact of slippery rail conditions, our drivers and our operations team are able to reduce the impact as much as practically possible.”