Keolis crews working throughout MBTA commuter rail system to prevent delays related to falling fall foliage on tracks
BOSTON – Oct. 28, 2014 – While the colors of autumn make for picture postcard scenery, the leaves can create special hazards for railroads as they fall on the tracks, making them wet and slippery. Keolis today announced a new initiative to reduce the impact of wet leaves on train departures and arrivals throughout the MBTA commuter rail system this fall season.
“It doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but falling leaves can have a serious impact on the operations of any railroad located in regions where trees shed their foliage,” said Keolis General Manager Tom Mulligan.
A video produced by Keolis illustrates the problem and solutions.
According to Keolis officials, leaves fall on rail tracks and then become wet from rain or dew. When train wheels run over them, the tremendous force crushes the leaves into a Teflon-like coating that can later cause train wheels to loose traction with the rail. When a train attempts to speed up or slow down, this slippery substance – called pectin – can cause the wheels to slip along the rails. As a result, engineers are sometimes forced to slow down or brake early to prevent this sliding in the name of safety.
Keolis began monitoring slippery rail hot spots throughout the system in early October and has assigned a dedicated team to focus on leaf removal. The company uses a variety of specialized equipment to keep the tracks clear.
When slippery rail occurs on untreated rail, Keolis engineers are trained to adjust their speeds and braking for our passenger’s safety, sometimes causing delays.
“Fall is beautiful in New England, but slippery rails are not,” said Mulligan. “Unfortunately, leaf-slippage and related delays can’t be completely eradicated, but on- time performance is critical to us and our passengers, even when leaves get in our way. We are committed to making sure this yearly occurrence has as little impact on our passengers as possible by reducing the chance of delays so everyone in our region can enjoy the lovely fall season.”