The end of October and start of November is, traditionally, the period which sees the most difficult conditions as the trees shed most of their leaves.
So far fewer leaves have fallen compared with this time last year and track conditions have been relatively benign. But that could change in the near future with the weather forecast predicting heavy rain this weekend.
Rob Cummings, Northern’s Seasonal Improvement Manager, said: “We have experienced some issues relating to autumn conditions, but the majority of leaves are still on the trees and so more difficult conditions are likely as we move towards November.
“Large numbers of leaves on the track, as well as other seasonal problems, can cause damage to train wheels as the track become slippery with an almost Teflon like coating. When wheels are damaged (wheel flats) the carriage has to be taken out of service and the wheel repaired before the problem becomes more serious.
“To keep such disruption to a minimum we're working hard to keep the tracks in the best possible condition. Our trains are fitted with sanders which treat the tracks as they move and Network Rail has leaf busting maintenance trains (pictured) which blast water and sand onto the tracks to remove leaves and provide more grip for trains.”
Rob added: “Our new trains also have new technology which acts like ABS brakes on a car, enables the train and driver to better deal with conditions and, subsequently reduces potential damage to wheels. Our drivers also have advanced training to help develop techniques which further reduce the impact of slippery rails.”
You can find out more about how Northern and the rain industry prepares for autumn by watching our latest YouTube video.