Northern Trains’ solution to leaves on the line: dry ice pellets

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Northern Trains’ solution to leaves on the line: dry ice pellets


Dry ice will be sprayed on rail tracks in the north of England as part of a test to remove leaves more efficiently than current methods.

Engineers at the University of Sheffield have developed a sheet erasing technique that will be tested by rail operator Northern on a passenger service in the coming weeks.

This involves dry ice pellets being pulled into an air stream from the train onto the rails, making the leaves frozen and brittle. The dry ice then quickly turns into gas, causing it to expand and destroy the leaves.

Currently, the leaves are cleared by 61 special trains that deploy high pressure water jets followed by a gel containing sand and grains of steel to help braking.

The test involves shooting pellets of carbon dioxide snow into an air stream of a passenger train on rails. Photograph: University of Sheffield / PA

The engineers behind the dry ice system say their method is significantly more efficient because it can be used by passenger trains, which cover greater distances than the limited fleet of clean-up trains.

It also leaves no residue, which can damage the tracks and wheels of trains, and it can be used on the same stretch of track more than once a day.

The system has been tested on test tracks and could be widely deployed by 2023-24.

Professor Roger Lewis, who is leading the development of the new method, said: “This technology will dramatically change the performance of trains in the fall, thus improving safety. It will provide more predictable braking and traction than current technology and will help improve train performance, reduce delays, increase passenger satisfaction and support the use of new technologies to enable better use of the train network. British railways.

“It will be great for passengers, but also for all rail operators and Network Rail. This will make their life much easier. “

Rob Cummings, Manager of Seasonal Improvement at Northern, said: “We are very excited to be testing this new technology over the fall period. One of the biggest risks to our performance in October and November is line departures, but by helping to develop new technologies we aim to provide the best service to our passengers. “

10-meter trees line UK railways and thousands of tonnes of leaves fall on the tracks each autumn. When trains pass over the sheets, it creates a slippery layer, with an effect similar to black ice on the roads. This causes delays as trains have to run at a reduced speed, accelerate more slowly and brake earlier.

The fall-related problems cost the rail industry around £ 345million each year.

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