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  • Leaves on the Line, why does it disrupt services?

    Fallen leaves really can disrupt rail services - not just here in Britain, but all over Europe and North America. The scale of the leaf-fall problem and the cost of keeping services running smoothly is huge:

    • a mature lineside tree has between 10,000 and 50,000 leaves
    • thousands of tonnes of leaves fall onto railway lines each year
    • there are 20,000 miles of track to keep clear in Britain
    • the annual cost of repairing damage to trains and track from leaf fall is over £10 million
    • lineside vegetation management costs over £5 million each year 
    • the cost of felling large trees is between £20,000 and £50,000 per mile.
 

    It is impossible to predict exactly when the leaf fall season will start and how long it will last, but the weather can provide a guide to its likely onset and how serious it is likely to be for the railway.

A severe leaf fall season often follows a wet summer. It starts with a hard frost, followed by a high wind and a period of dry weather, which causes large amounts of leaves to fall over a short period of time.

But traditionally, autumn is the season of mists and mellow weather, which spreads leaf fall over a longer period and reduces the severity of the problem.