NETWORK Rail will be travelling the equivalent of more than four times around the world this autumn on the South Western rail network to combat leaves on the line

The rail maintenance body said leaves on the lines act like black ice on roads and can cause train delays throughout the autumn months.

Six specially designed trains with high pressure water jets are expected to cover around 120,000 miles in the coming months on the route.

To keep passengers safe, train drivers must brake earlier when approaching stations and signals to avoid overshooting their stop. They must also accelerate more gently to avoid wheel spin. Taking these factors into account, South Western Railway has published an autumn timetable, which came into place on Sunday, 7 October and will run until December 8.

Becky Lumlock, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “The issue of leaves on the line is a very real problem for the railway industry which will present us with a number of challenges in the coming months.

“Our teams of engineers will be working around the clock across the region to keep the tracks clear and keep people on the move.

“We will also be monitoring leaf-fall very closely in order to tackle high risk areas before they become a problem for trains.”

Leaves can also interfere with signalling systems by interrupting the connection between the wheel and the track, reducing its ability to detect a train's location.