England

Southeastern trains in 'leaves on line' timetable change

Special trains that Network Rail use to clear the leaf mulch from tracks
Image caption Network Rail said a fleet of specialist trains would clean the rails to remove fallen, compressed leaves

A train company in the south east of England has changed its timetable due to the amount of leaves on the line.

Southeastern's autumn "leaf fall" timetable will run from 29 September until 7 December, with some early morning services leaving earlier.

It said routes with more trees along the track were "particularly vulnerable" to poor rail conditions.

Spokeswoman Alison Nolan said drivers had to take extra precautions, such as braking and accelerating more slowly.

'National joke'

The customer relations manager said: "We've done a great deal of work behind the scenes to prepare for the autumn period, and this timetable change, together with Network Rail's efforts, has been designed to help mitigate the rail conditions and help minimise any disruption.

"We really want to provide our customers with certainty during this particularly difficult period for the rail industry.

"Leaves on the line may be a national joke amongst many, but it's actually a very real problem," she said.

"Leaves fallen and compressed by passing trains actually creates really greasy [track] conditions, so we actually need to take extra care during this season.

"For that reason we want to add a few more minutes into the timetable on those early morning services."

'Leaf clearance trains'

The company, which runs services into London from Kent and East Sussex, said most of the services affected would be those travelling towards London.

Network Rail added that throughout autumn a fleet of specialist trains would regularly clean the rails to remove fallen leaves but wet, cold and frosty weather conditions could exacerbate the problems.

A spokesman said: "We routinely cut back trees and plants to reduce the amount of leaves which can fall on to the tracks but as one of Britain's largest landowners, we also have a responsibility to protect the environment.

"Balancing the two is a challenge in itself."

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