Sheffield University engineers have developed a new track cleaning technology to end train delays caused by leaves on the railhead.
The new rail cleaning technique proposed by Professor Roger Lewis and his team, uses dry ice pellets in a stream of high pressure air which freeze the leaves and then as the pellets turn back to gas, they are blasted away from the railhead.
“At the moment, railway lines are cleaned using railhead treatment trains, also known as RHTTs, but there is only a limited number of these trains available, so they can’t treat the whole of the network,” says Lewis.
“RHTTs are expensive to run, so they are mainly used to clean high-traffic, intercity lines, which means many lines are left untreated.”
“Furthermore the cleaning system they use can damage parts of the track over time and the system has to be switched off when travelling through stations to avoid spraying passengers, so this means lines within stations are left unclean and trains can find it more difficult to stop and start resulting in the delays we see every year.”
“The cleaning system we have developed at the University of Sheffield solves all of these problems and the trials we have done over the past two years show it cleans the track more effectively, significantly reduces delays and improves stopping distances.”
First developed by the group in 2015, the method has since been tested on railhead treatment trains and passenger trains respectively.
It has proven to be significantly more effective at removing leaves from the line, preventing delays and improving braking distances for trains than the current cleaning methods.
What’s more, the Sheffield cleaning system is able to clean parts of the railway network where current methods are unable, is lighter and doesn’t affect nearby railway infrastructure.
The system is also much better for the environment as it uses reclaimed carbon dioxide.
The Sheffield team has successfully deployed the track cleaning system onboard passenger trains in a collaboration with Northern, making it the first such instance where passenger trains have been used to clean the track anywhere in the world.
Image and content: University of Sheffield