Has Greater Anglia solved ‘leaves on the line’ issue?

Greater Anglia Picture: Sonya Duncan

Greater Anglia Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A new project by Greater Anglia which has dramatically reduced delays caused by leaves on the line in the autumn has received national recognition for its innovative engineering.

Greater Anglia and project partners, Porterbrook, SNC Lavalin, KBRS and Loram UK Ltd, received the engineering prize at the Rail Innovation Awards for improving the reliability of the diesel trains used on branch lines in the region.

This is the first time such a system – known in the industry as 'Wheel Slide Protection' (or WSP) – has been designed for Class 156 trains owned by Porterbrook Leasing.

It is a braking system like ABS on a car and prevents damage to wheels which can involve the train being out of service for up to a week. If several trains suffer from wheel flats at the same time, which can occur in poor weather or when leaves fall on the track, this can lead to disruption to passengers through a shortage of operational trains available – meaning that some services are cancelled.

There were major problems during the autumn of 2015 when trains on the Felixstowe and Sudbury lines were regularly replaced by buses because so many diesel trains were out of action.

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The prototype train has been in operation since October 2016, through autumn and adverse weather. Six months later, its wheels are all still in good condition. None of its wheels have needed to visit the wheel lathe, whereas other Class 156 trains have needed to receive attention two or three times.

James Abbott, editor of Modern Railways which organises the awards, said: 'We are pleased to promote innovation in all corners of the railway and this project is a fine example of pioneering engineering to improve everyday operations.'

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Greater Anglia's Norwich depot technical manager, Jason Mills, said: 'We are absolutely delighted to receive this recognition for an innovative solution.

'This investment means that these trains will be more reliable as they will not need to be taken out of service as often to visit the wheel lathe while we await the roll out of new trains from 2019.'

Neil Foster from Porterbrook said: 'We were confident that WSP could be fitted to Class 156 trains, but the performance of the trial surpassed everyone's expectations.'

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