Case Studies – Leaf Fall Campaign

Leaf it to Weedfree!

Weedfree are just about to begin our eighth successive successful leaf fall campaign on the UK national rail network. With thousands of shifts completed and a 100% attendance record, we are justifiably proud of our performance. 

Extreme weather conditions and seasonal changes account for 10% of all delays on the rail network, with Network Rail currently spending around £60m combating the effects of leaves on the line. 

When leaves fall on the lines they form a slippery layer on the rail head which is likened to black ice on the roads by train drivers, causing train wheels to slip. This affects a vehicle’s acceleration and braking, causing delays and compromising safety. In order to combat this, Network Rail commission a fleet of MPVs (Multi Purpose Vehicles) and RHTTs (Rail Head Treatment Trains) from September through to December. These vehicles are used to clean the rail head with high pressure water jets and to apply Sandite, a composition of gel and sand directly onto the rail to improve adhesion.   

October 2008

  • Each season, Weedfree provide a workforce of around 120 trained and competent staff throughout the country, operating and supporting the MPV and RHTT units, in cooperation with EWS and COLAS who provide the engines and drivers for haulage
  • Weedfree cover around 90 shifts a day at peak season
  • Weedfree have a 100% attendance record for every shift that has run
  • Much of this work is carried out at night, to minimise interference with normal passenger and freight traffic
  • Weedfree run a 24/7 control centre, ensuring that our operators are all in place at the right time, and maintaining contact to ensure work is completed correctly and problems are dealt with immediately

Further information:

Network Rail leaf fall campaign background


Colas Rail Ltd