You can tell that it’s autumn because there is commuter chaos caused by the humble leaf.
‘Leaves on the line’ is the phrase that no-one wants to hear as it is guaranteed to be followed with delays, cancellations and plenty of groans.
Southeastern Railway have announced they will be running a reduced timetable to because of the risk of accidents.
Some off-peak trains will be calling less frequently at 28 London stations ‘during the worst of the autumn weather.’
Leaves on the line are said to cost the industry and passengers £300,000,000 every year.
But just why are leaves on the line such a problem?
Network Rail said 50,000,000 leaves fall onto the rail tracks every autumn.
As leaves fall on the rails they can get compacted under the weight of trains and form a slippery layer which causes trains to lose their grip.
Therefore trains – just like cars in snow – need more time to start and stop.
To add to this, the signalling system uses electric currents in the track to locate trains.
However if leaves are on the line, their system becomes less accurate.
Therefore to be on the safe side, Network Rail say they need to leaver longer gaps between trains – hence the delays.
John Halsall, Route Managing Director at Network Rail, said: ‘’Leaves on the line are no joke.’
‘As leaves fall on the rails they can get compacted under the weight of trains and form a smooth and slippery layer, causing trains to lose grip.
‘Therefore, train drivers, much like when we drive in snow on the roads, need more time to start and stop. So in some areas we have a special autumn timetable which builds extra time into journeys because passenger safety has to be at the heart of everything we do.’
But there are steps that can be taken to ease the problem.
Network Rail said that their trains will travel the equivalent of seven times around the Earth the rails with jets so powerful they can cut through steel.
The treatment trains will also cover 40,000 miles of track with a special gel, mixed with sand, to help trains grip the rail better.
They are also clearing trees and hedgerows to ensure that the number of leaves that fall onto the track are reduced.
Passengers are advised to check their journey on the Southeastern website or its mobile app, checking National Rail Enquiries or tweeting to @Se-railway or following the hashtag #SEautumn.
And don’t worry. Very soon the leaf problem will be over – and it will be time for snow and ice.