London Underground has turned to a specially converted tube train — known as a Rail Adhesion Train (RAT) to help remove falling leaves from the tracks this autumn.
The specially converted 1973-stock trains will be ready to enter service at the end of this month for use on the Piccadilly line.
It follows the publication of an independent report, commissioned by TfL, into leaf fall issues on the Piccadilly line that have led to delays and disruption on the line over the past two years.
Two 1973-stock trains have been converted into specialist engineering trains which will travel on the Piccadilly line treating rails to reduce the risk of poor adhesion. The adhesive material they dispense helps the train wheels grip the tracks during braking. When trains brake on slippery tracks it can cause the wheels to lock and subsequently wear down, an issue known as wheel flats.
TfL has also ordered better weather tools to help predict when the combination of wind and rain are likely to lead to the worst conditions.
The weather prediction tools should help to deal with the biggest issue that so badly affected the Piccadilly in 2016, the unusually dry and stable weather in the run up to autumn. When Storm Angus arrived on our shores in November, the trees lining the Picadilly line were unusually laden with dry old leaves that hadn’t been blown away yet.
Then came lots of wind and rain, and a blanket of mulch landed on top of the railway.
Although TfL was critisised in the investigation for lack of planning, the weather was largely to blame for the conditions, even if TfL was to blame for not being ready for them.
The weather forecasting tools should help resolve some of those issues. Chopping down the trees also helps, even if it upsets people who quite like the trees to remain intact.
There will however also be a new Autumn timetable which allows for a reduction in train speeds in areas where low adhesion is expected, to reduce the risk to train wheels. This is in line with the Metropolitan line and Network Rail services.
TfL also runs Rail Adhesion Trains on both the Central and Metropolitan lines during the Autumn months.