Water-Trak on Northern train

Northern trial new 'leaf-busting' technology

Northern have revealed two new leaf-busting technologies at its Allerton depot as they try to limit service disruption.

Fallen leaves can cause considerable disruption to the rail network as they stick to damp rails and track.

This causes passing trains to compress fallen leaves into a smooth slippery layer reducing grip and in turn causing delays to services.

Railway lines are currently cleared using railhead treatment trains (RHTTs) however these are expensive to run and are limited in numbers.

Northern has partnered with top engineers to trial two new rail head treatment technologies that are attached to passenger trains.

This could save the rail industry millions of pounds per year.

The trials have been funded by Network Rail’s Performance Innovation Fund.

Rob Cummings, Seasonal Improvement Manager at Northern commented on the role the new technology can play in improving the rail network.

Mr Cummings said: “We’re very excited to test these new technologies during the autumn period.

“One of the biggest risks to our performance during October and November is leaves on the line.

“By helping to develop new technology we aim to deliver the very best service for our passengers.”

The Water-Trak technology creates rainy-day conditions on the rail surface.

The team at Water-Trak found that leaf coated rails only become slippery when damp noting that trains still stop safely in heavy rain.

Two Northern trains fitted with Water-Trak have been successfully operating in passenger service since October.

John Cooke Co-founder at Water-Trak said: “We are really pleased to have the opportunity to test our solution in passenger service on the Northern network.

“Slippery rails are a massive problem for the rail industry and we hope to play a big part in resolving this issue.”

A new rail technique has been developed by a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield led by Professor Roger Lewis.

This technique uses dry ice pellets in a stream of high-pressure which freezes leaves.

As the pellets turn back to gas leaves are blasted away from the rails.

Professor Roger Lewis, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield elaborated on the new technology.

Professor Lewis said: “Working with Northern has given us an exciting and unique opportunity to take our new cryogenic rail head cleaning technology from the lab to now be trialled on passenger trains on a live network.

“Frequent cleaning in this way offers benefits for the whole industry.

“[This] will hopefully mean that low adhesion issues presented by “wet-rail” and leaf layer will eventually be a thing of the past.”


TCR Midlands


Innovation In Edinburgh

This issue highlights the latest topics within the rail industry, from decarbonising the Midlands, improving rail safety, meeting the future priorities of Scotland's Railway & more!                                                      


View all videos
TransCityRail Banner


South \ 28 09 23
North \ 09 11 23
Mids \ 29 02 24

TransCityRail is a series of regional, interactive and insightful events across the country bringing together leaders, collaborators, problem solvers and innovators in a creative and invigorating way.

This series of events supports and informs the whole of the rail industry and connects suppliers with buyers, specifiers, leaders and decision-makers looking to procure a wide variety of innovative products and services for their region.

Sector Survey

How Important are Maintenance Free Electrical Connections in the Rail Industry

Participating industry professionals will contribute valuable data to enhance our understanding of maintenance-free concepts in the UK rail industry. Their insights will shed light on how professionals currently engage with screw electrical connections, aiding us in effectively promoting the advantages of screwless electrical connectors and terminals.

Your knowledge and expertise is essential to the success of this survey.

More articles...

View all