It’s Time To Tackle Leaves On The Line...

…with a new innovation from Porterbrook, SNC-Lavalin, Knorr Bremise Rail Services, Loram and Abellio East Anglia

The Class 15x fleet of trains was built in the 1980s when wheel slide protection systems were not fitted as standard. As a result, the trains suffer wheel damage during the autumn leaf fall season. Leaf fall is widely recognised as a problem within the rail sector, causing delays, a lack of availability of trains for passenger service and leading to longer stopping distances in some conditions.

Porterbrook Leasing owns around 250 Class 15x vehicles, so was keen to find a solution to the problem. By working in collaboration with SNC-Lavalin, Knorr Bremse Rail Services (KBRS), Loram and Abellio East Anglia, a new design of wheel slide protection was developed for the UK. The project was a team effort; Porterbrook acted as lead organisation; KBRS supplied and adapted the equipment to ensure the design was suitable for the application; SNC-Lavalin led the system integration to the existing vehicles and Loram carried out the installation of the first in class unit. The train operator, Abellio East Anglia supported the dynamic testing.

The project team was set the ambitious target of getting one unit into service in time for leaf fall 2016, allowing only four months from concept design to final testing. KBRS’ latest generation wheel slide protection system (MGS3) had been used on high speed trains elsewhere in Europe, but it was a new product to the UK market and had never before been fitted to tread braked vehicles.

The first unit performed well and the system activated multiple times when slippery tracks were encountered - similar to an anti-lock brake on a car - automatically managing the train traction and braking systems, preventing serious damage to the wheels. This first unit remained in service throughout the autumn period, unlike similar Class 15Xs which had to be stopped for wheel reprofiling. Plans are now being developed to roll out the installation to the remainder of Porterbrook’s fleets.

Colin Dobson, the Engineering Director at Abellio East Anglia, comments: "The WSP system installed on the 156 provided a critical capability during our most operationally vulnerable and challenging period. We were also able to gather invaluable comparative data to show how the system both added operational resilience and protected service levels.”