Innovative laser technology to be tested by Network Rail this Autumn

16 Aug, 2022

Network Rail is trialling a new laser technology this Autumn which is designed to clear the residue of fallen leaves from train lines at speeds up to 60mph.  

The ‘ Lasertrain’, developed by Amsterdam-based LPS (Laser Precision Solutions), aims laser beams at the rails to ‘vaporize’ contamination that is a result of leaves on the lines. 

When leaves are crushed onto train lines, they form into an oily film which creates driving conditions similar to black ice: reducing grip, impacting safety and performance of services, rains to reduce speed, accelerate slower and brake earlier.

Network Rail is set to test the LPS Lasertrain on stretches of East Lancashire railway in the northwest of England this October, as part of a UK-wide initiative to bring new technology onto the railways to make them cleaner, greener and safer. The UK trial will be the first time the laser technology is used to clean at high speeds of 60mph.

LPS CEO, Harm Medendorp said: ‘’We are very excited Network Rail has chosen our technology for future consideration, and to have the opportunity to showcase how our smart and sustainable rail cleaning solution can create a more reliable and efficient service for UK passengers during the tough Autumn months. Leveraging the power of laser light, we have increased our cleaning speed from 25mph to 60mph‘’

The LaserTrain has been operating with the MTA Long Island Railroad in New York City since 2018, demonstrating positive results. 

In the first year alone, 65% less late trains due to weather was noted on lines where the LaserTrain operated, 48% fewer train cancellations and 32% less car shortening.

Unlike other methods in the market, the LaserTrain requires no consumables or by-products. The laser technology is a one-of-a-kind patented design.

Editor Notes:

Autumn Test Method: Friction levels on a contaminated piece of track will be measured, then the LaserTrain will pass over, and the friction levels will be measured again. This process will be repeated multiple times at varying speeds up to 60mph across several weeks.  

A total of 285 million rail passenger journeys were made in the UK between October and December last year. 

The Laser Train Contraption (LTC), aka, the laser end of the LaserTrain

Photo by Kai Bossom