It doesn’t matter which country a train travels in, the weather will always have the potential to throw a curve ball that makes services that little bit more difficult, and potentially dangerous, to operate. For those that experience climactic extremes will know, snow can bring services to a grinding halt; a deluge of rain can lead to landslides that can wash away ballast; and, as SmartRail World wrote about a few months ago, extreme heat has the ability to even warp the tracks.
The seasonal by-product that arguably causes operators and passengers some of the biggest travel woes – in the UK at least – are tree leaves on the line. Network Rail, the manager of much of the UK’s rail infrastructure, has been in the news recently for cutting down potentially problematic trees that can deposit their leaves on the metal rails. And despite the controversy that the Network Rail action has created from some quarters with concerns of overzealous removal, few would deny that leaves aren’t a problem to the rail industry – whether they’re the ‘wrong type of leaves’ or not. Here, we take a look at a new variety of leaf clearance that will be hoping to bring about root and branch change.
We’ve written about some of the various methods of leaf removal in the past, from specially adapted trains that clear debris and spray the lines with a tacky adhesive-like coating, to safety units that work in a similar way as anti-lock braking system (ABS) do on a car, but we stumbled across a piece of rail technology that utilises an approach that is a touch more futuristic: a laser. And, as the developer of this solution, Laser Precision Solutions (LPS) from The Netherlands, shows in the above video, this LaserTrain unit pulses unwanted mulch clean off the rails. The oil left on the track from leaves can be spread across several hundred metres, says LPS, so harnessing the power of electromagnetic radiation to eradicate the leaves certainly makes sense. With its LaserTRain system, LPS adds that leaf-affected services will be punctual and, crucially, safe – enabling trains to come to controlled stops even in the depths of Autumn.
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