Sand Rover used to aid Sudbury branch’s rail reliability

The 'Sand Rover' is used to drop sand on to the tracks of the Sudbury-Marks Tey branch line.
The 'Sand Rover' is used to drop sand on to the tracks of the Sudbury-Marks Tey branch line.

Rail service reliability and the infamous ‘leafgate’ rail cancellations that took place in Autumn 2015 were avoided this year on the Sudbury-Marks Tey branch line, helped in part by a Sand Rover.

Network Rail and Greater Anglia jointly invested in a specially-adapted Land Rover, known as the Sand Rover, which cleaned and treated the equivalent of 300 miles of track between Marks Tey and Sudbury where specialist trains cannot reach.

The ‘Sand Rover’ is driven onto the railway where rail wheels are then lowered onto the rail, turning it into a rail vehicle.

There were fewer delays and cancellations for rail users on branch lines in East Anglia this Autumn compared to the previous year according to figures released by train operator Greater Anglia.

Punctuality and reliability figures for branch lines in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire were 87.5 per cent and 84.5 per cent respectively, compared to 80.8 per cent and 79.9 per cent during the same periods the previous year.

Cancelled and late trains were also down on these lines over the same two periods.

A joint Autumn Preparation Programme was put in place by Greater Anglia and Network Rail last year which included all trains being fitted with a monitoring system that reports when and where a train experiences slipping.

Greater Anglia also invested in a mobile wheel lathe at its Crown Depot in Norwich, to fix some of the train wheels damaged as a result of slippery rails, an improvement South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge was particularly pleased with.

Greater Anglia’s managing director Jamie Burles said: “It’s good to see that the measures put in place by ourselves and Network Rail had a positive effect on the branch lines, which were particularly badly affected the previous year.”