LEAVES on the line - the oft-ridiculed but legitimate autumnal excuse for train delays could become a thing of the past thanks to new trials set to take place in Bromsgrove and Redditch.

But, as with many good things, you often have to endure the bad to get them - and rail passengers in the towns will have to suffer some isolated Sundays next month as a result.

The Barnt Green to Redditch line, which also serves Alvechurch, will close every Sunday in October (6, 13, 20 and 27) for what is being labelled 'pioneering testing' to improve trains' reliability.

Special test trains will be trialling new ways of braking designed to reduce delays for passengers caused by ‘leaves on the line’.

Martin Colmey, head of operations delivery for Network Rail’s central route, said: “Leaves on the line is a big problem for the railway.

"It disrupts services and inconveniences passengers and every year, Network Rail and train operators work together to battle against the elements to keep people moving safely and on time.

“We are always looking at innovative ways to improve the railway for our passengers, so we’re excited to be working with West Midlands Trains and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) on a project which could see delays by dreaded ‘leaves on the line’ become a thing of the past.”

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Train performance can be affected during autumn as compressed leaves on the tracks can cause train wheels to slip and skid, meaning they need to slow down to avoid accidents, leading to timetable disruption.

The braking experiments will see targeted jets of sand sprayed directly in front of individual train wheels before they pass over rails which have been made artificially slippery, as if leaves had fallen on them.

The trials aim to target specific wheels when they start to slip, applying sand as and when needed, to see if it reduces the need to brake or decrease a train’s speed.

If the new braking method is successful, the hope is trains could drive at normal speeds regardless of whether there are leaves on the line.

Network Rail's partnership with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and West Midlands Trains will test this method on the main line rail network for the first time.

If successful, it could eventually benefit millions of passengers nationwide - so surely a few Sundays of inconvenience for train users in Redditch, Alvechurch and Barnt Green is a small price to pay?

Rail replacement bus services will be in operation and people are advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk to see if their journey will be affected.

Luisa Moisio, research and development programme director from the RSSB, said: “Poor rail adhesion affects millions of passengers each year, preventing the reliable service they rightly expect.

"This new sanding technique halves train stopping distances during times of low adhesion and provides the biggest improvement in 20 years."

Neil Bamford, engineering director at West Midlands Railway, said: “It might seem like an old problem but with millions of trees in Birmingham alone, leaves falling on the line cause very real issues on our network.

“We are fully committed to improving the experience for our passengers and once perfected this innovative system could boost reliability in the autumn months."