Two specialist engineering trains lead the charge against leaf fall on the Piccadilly line.(TfL)

  • The two Rail Adhesion Trains (RATs) are part of a package of measures being introduced this Autumn to tackle wheel flats and prevent disruption
  • The specially converted 1973-stock trains will be ready to enter service at the end of this month

A robust action plan to tackle leaf fall on the Piccadilly line is well underway for the Autumn months, Transport for London (TfL) confirmed today.

It follows the publication of an independent report, commissioned by TfL, into leaf fall issues on the Piccadilly line that have led to delays and disruption on the line over the past two years.

Two 1973-stock trains have been converted into specialist engineering trains which will travel on the Piccadilly line treating rails to reduce the risk of poor adhesion. The adhesive material they dispense helps the train wheels grip the tracks during braking. When trains brake on slippery tracks it can cause the wheels to lock and subsequently wear down, an issue known as wheel flats.

Other measures TfL is taking to ensure that services on the Piccadilly line run as smoothly as possible this Autumn include:

  • Completing the most intensive trackside vegetation clearance programme to date to significantly reduce the amount of leaves falling on or near the track. This is already nearing completion.
  • Securing access to more detailed weather prediction data which will allow a quicker response to changing leaf fall conditions and aid the decision on when to deploy the RATs.
  • Erecting new trackside signage which warns drivers of any low adhesion areas and temporary speed restrictions in place.
  • Developing a new Autumn timetable which allows for a reduction in train speeds in areas where low adhesion is expected, to reduce the risk to train wheels. This is in line with industry best practice and put in place every year on the Metropolitan line and Network Rail services.
  • Recruiting additional train maintenance staff, and purchasing more new spare wheels, to provide a 24/7 train wheel changing facility at both depots on the Piccadilly line if conditions prevail that cannot be controlled by the other mitigation measures.

 Nigel Holness, London Underground’s Director of Network Operations, said:

 “Following disruption for Piccadilly line customers in previous years due to leaf fall, we are determined to learn from past experiences and employ every measure possible to tackle the issue effectively this year.

“This includes introducing two specialist engineering trains that are designed to improve rail adhesion, and carrying out a significant trackside vegetation clearance programme which is already nearing completion.  In line with good industry practice we are also introducing a new Autumn timetable to reduce the risk to train wheels.

“We are confident that this approach will help reduce any possible delays and provide our customers with the level of service they expect.”