Millions of leaves fall onto rail tracks every year. As trains pass over them, the leaves are compacted into a layer stuck to the track. This third body ‘contaminant’ does not support high shear stresses, and therefore results in low adhesion between the wheels and rails. Low adhesion has a detrimental effect on the braking performance, resulting in increased stopping distances, platform overruns, signals passed at danger (SPADs) or collisions.
The rail industry implements speed limits in the autumn season to ensure that trains can safely stop, this however results in a reduction of services and the implementation of the “Autumn timetable”. In addition, Network Rail operate a fleet of 61 specialist High Pressure Water Jetting trains, this extreme pressure these trains operate at requires 130 million litres (or 52 Olympic swimming pools) of water annually. However, this alone is not sufficient as 80 crews also conduct manual treatment in localised areas. This cleaning treatment is estimated to cost £63million annually and £345million to the wider society.
A novel technique of Cryogenic cleaning has been developed for cleaning rail infrastructure, through a series of fully funded research projects. The technology has been demonstrated in an operational environment on the live UK network. The unique feature of cryogenic cleaning is that it results in a clean dry railhead, allowing it to be operated where other technologies are unsuitable. The scalable nature of the technology presents an exciting opportunity to mount the cleaning technology on passenger mounted vehicles, removing the requirement for specialist cleaning trains, and the Autumn timetable.
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