Too many jokes have been cracked about leaves on the line — and we're not going to rake with the wisecracks. Let's leaf it there.
Truth is, as autumn sets in each year, this seasonal niggle of nature blights the journeys of thousands of train passengers. Tube passengers, too — let's not forget that over 50% of the Underground network is overground.
In particular, the Piccadilly line has suffered badly from leaves on the line. One of the major fallouts from leaves on the line is 'wheel flats', whereby braking on slippery tracks causes train wheels to lock and subsequently wear down.
Which is why TfL has come up with this:
At first sight, it looks like little more than an old tube train. Indeed, this, and another similar train, are retired 1973 Piccadilly line stock.
But they've been pimped up, and fitted out with specialist equipment, which dispenses a special adhesive substance to the Piccadilly line rails — making the train wheels grip the tracks during braking.
Says Nigel Holness, London Underground’s Director of Network Operations:
Following disruption for Piccadilly line customers in previous years due to leaf fall, we are determined to learn from past experiences and employ every measure possible to tackle the issue effectively this year.
We are confident that this approach will help reduce any possible delays and provide our customers with the level of service they expect.
Will these two unlikely heroes from the past save untold autumnal woes? It's more likely to diminish the problem than solve it. (A special 'autumn timetable' is part of the plan too.)
After all, it's not like train companies haven't tried to tackle this problem before — with similar methods too. As one expert says, "This has been a problem since the start of the railway and it's very difficult to manage as there are a lot of uncertainties that make it difficult to tell where this is going to happen."
At the very least, it's good to see that TfL is comitted to recycling.
Londonist travel news and features are brought to you in partnership with CommuterClub. The easier way to afford an annual season ticket. How much could you save? Find out here and save £20 off your first month with this exclusive Londonist offer.