On 7 October Southeastern brought in an autumn timetable that will run until 8 December.  In general this means that some trains times have changed slightly to allow more time for the trains to cope with autumn leaf fall.  Leaf fall is a huge problem for trains especially those that run using electricity from the third rail.  It is worse if the leaves are wet and sticky.
Because weather plays such a huge part in this southeastern have also brought in a temporary timetable for ‘bad weather’.  On these days some trains will not stop at Westcombe Park and Maze Hill in order to allow time for trains slowed by leaves to catch up.  This timetable was in use on Friday 12 October.  When this happens Westcombe Park and Maze Hill lose four trains an hour off peak so in effect this means the off-peak service reduces to three trains an hour.  The timetable is available both online and on noticeboards at stations, we encourage off peak users to check before you travel.
The Westcombe Society and others are not happy with these arrangements and along with the Greenwich Line Users Group, Councillors and our MP we have all objected to this. If you are affected and wish to comment please write to southeastern. An email address you could use is George.Paterson@southeasternrailway.co.uk. We would appreciate you also letting the Westcombe Society Environment Committee know your views on environment@westcombesociety.org or by commenting on this post.
Further information can be found here
The autumn timetable can be found on this link – Southeastern Autumn Timetable 2018
and the temporary ‘station skipping’ timetable can be found on this link – Southeastern station skipping timetable autumn 2018
The full Southeastern notification was as follows:
Changes to your service this Autumn
With the sun continuing to shine, it may still feel like summer at the moment, but here at Southeastern and Network Rail we’re concentrating on getting ready for Autumn.

For the railway, Autumn means millions of leaves falling on the track, turning into mulch and making it harder for our trains to grip the rails. In turn this means our trains take longer to accelerate and brake between stations.

Our Autumn timetable

Our Autumn timetable will run from 7th October to 8th December.

To account for the extra time needed by our drivers, we’re making a number of temporary changes to various train timetables, over the season leaf fall period.

In the morning, some trains will leave a few minutes earlier. In the evening, trains will leave London at the same time as usual, but some will arrive at stations along their route a few minutes later.

You can check how your journey will be affected here.

Changes to Off-Peak service pattern

Between 7th October and 8th December, we will also make temporary changes to off-peak calling patterns.

When weather is forecast to be particularly bad, over a given period, some of our less busy services will miss a small number of stops to help them keep to their journey plan.

We do this to keep our services reliable and prevent a knock-on impact at key terminal stations during Peak times when the network is particularly busy. We have found this increases the performance of the service we offer by an average of 8% during Autumn.

Our changes to the Off-Peak service pattern are taken three days’ in advance, when we can be reasonably certain about weather forecasts and this revised pattern will be implemented over a weekly period.

You can check to see if this affects your service here and we advise passengers to check every week.

Customer Information Screen

Why fallen leaves cause such a problem

We know it may seem like a joke, but it is a really significant problem for our trains. 50 million leaves fall onto the tracks on the South East route every Autumn.

When moist and squashed by train wheels, the leaves form a layer on our tracks which can be as slippery as black ice. Our drivers need more time to accelerate and brake, as the train wheels have less grip on the tracks.

Over a whole journey the accumulation of extra time needed becomes significant. The temporary timetable changes gives our drivers the time they need to stop and start safely, and makes services more likely to stay on schedule.

A layer of compressed black mulch on the rail

How we’re working to mitigate leaves on the line

While we would like to be able to clear off every leaf which falls onto our track, the sheer scale – 50 million leaves falling every Autumn – makes this task impossible. However, we are working hard to make sure they cause as little disruption as possible.

One of Network Rail’s leaf-busting trains on the network

This includes:

  • Clearing hundreds of miles of track side vegetation throughout the year
  • Running special leaf-busting trains throughout Autumn that clean the rails using water jets and apply a sand-based gel to help trains grip the rail
  • Training our drivers to handle more challenging Autumn conditions

Communicating with our passengers

We know that communicating these changes and how this will affect their journey is essential, which is why this year we will be embarking on an innovative communications campaign to really engage with passengers about why we’re making these changes and how it will affect their journey.

If we make changes to Off-Peak service patterns three days’ in advance, we will let our passengers at these selected stations know via our station teams, posters, social media and  onour website.