Network Rail arborist Neil Strong said the company is operating its biggest treatment fleet this year, including 32 multi-purpose vehicles, which have high-pressure water jets and also apply a sand-based gel called Sandite to the rails.
Weekend engineering works were stopped early to allow treatment teams access to the tracks.
“Adhesion problems” have blighted the railways for years and brought derision from the travelling public. Network Rail allows for 500,000 delay minutes annually.
It costs £50 million annually to manage deciduous trees that shed leaves on the line. Network Rail owns 30,000km of line and 30,000ha of land.
National director of the Rail Passenger Council Anthony Smith said: “From a passenger’s point of view, leaves on the line sounds like a weak excuse. People in the industry will tell you that there are lots of reasons why this is a particular problem in this country.
“But when it comes down to it, the trains should run on time. They should be prepared. Let’s hope that this year, they are prepared.”
Network Rail deputy chief executive Iain Coucher said: “Although we cannot control the elements, we are constantly striving to improve the way we tackle the problems leaf-fall presents.”
- For a full interview with Neil Strong, read HW, 27 November.
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