MTA Uses Laser-Equipped Trains to Clean Railway Tracks of Leaves

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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MTA equips trains with lasers to reduce fallen leaves on tracks.

In an MTA Press Release, it has announced a contract with Laser Precision Solutions for the use of laser-equipped trains to reduce fallen leaves on railway tracks.

The MTA board confirmed Metro-North Railroad to utilize a second train equipped with lasers this fall season to mitigate issues caused by fallen leaves on railroad tracks. The contract includes a two-year-base with an additional one-year option for $3,231,300. It proved successful last Fall 2022 during its pilot program. It should reduce the number of train cars that are usually taken out of service during the autumn.

In the fall as leaves fall from trees onto the tracks below, it mixes with any precipitation to create a slippery substance called pectin. Pectin causes trains to experience low adhesion and to slide along rails. In more severe instances, this sliding along the rails can prompt on-board computer systems to automatically engage an emergency stop. Additionally, the sliding and braking damages the train’s wheels by causing flat spots. Therefore, Metro-North must take those train cars out of service for repair.

Metro-North Railroad President and Long Island Rail Road Interim President Catherine Rinaldi knows that MTA “can’t keep leaves on the trees, but it can fight their effects on Metro-North’s infrastructure and cut back on delays for our customers”. With this technology, Rinaldi says it “has seen an incredible decrease in delays and equipment issues brought on by slip slide using this system.”Together with Laser Precision Solutions, the laser train requires one pass with high-intensity lasers to remove leaves and other contaminants from the tracks. All parts of the network of tracks can be cleaned every day with the addition of another train. During its test run last Fall, Metro-North successfully cleaned over 12,000 miles of track with the laser train. The run resulted in a 40% reduction of sliding events and “the lowest wheel-true cost season on record”.

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