SEVEN special trains designed to blast leaves from tracks will travel four times the distance of the equator to clear lines across the West Midlands this autumn.

From today (Friday, October 1) until December 13, the units will wash leaf debris from a total of 91,195 miles of track across this region and lines on the Chiltern network.

Three trains known as multi-purpose vehicles will operate from the Kings Norton depot, with another called an rail head treatment train operating from Banbury.

After railway lines have been cleared with high pressure water jets the machines then apply rails with a glue-like coating to help passenger and freight train wheels grip the tracks.

Regarded as the railway’s equivalent of black ice on the roads, leaves on the line can create issues when they stick to damp rails and are compressed by moving trains into a thin, black layer which can affect train braking and acceleration.

The build-up of leaf mulch can also make it harder for signal operators to detect a train’s location, causing delays.

Martin Colmey, operations director for Network Rail’s Central route, said: “Leaves on the line are a big problem for the railway. It disrupts services and inconveniences passengers and every year, Network Rail and train operators work together to battle against the elements to get passengers and freight to their destinations.

“Even more work has gone into getting prepared for autumn this year because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, including how we operate the trains themselves. We are ready to keep people and goods moving across the West Midlands and Chiltern main line running a safe and reliable service for our customers.”

Malcolm Holmes, executive director for West Midlands Rail Executive, said: “The rail industry’s work to keep trains safely moving during autumn is key as we welcome passengers back to train travel. Leaves on the line is no joke and is something Network Rail is once again taking seriously as it sends out its fleet of treatment trains this year.”

Specialist teams will be positioned across the West Midlands and Chiltern main line to check that the autumn treatment programme is working effectively and provide additional support where necessary.