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October 23, 2023

It's slippery rail season again, SEPTA advises train riders of potential delays

Cleaning crews will be deployed overnight through December to blast away leaves and oily residue from Regional Rail Lines, hopefully reducing the problem

Transportation SEPTA
septa slippery rail Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

At this time of year, SEPTA's Regional Rail Lines are susceptible to delays caused by leaves that have fallen on train tracks. The leaves are crushed by passing trains causing the rails to become slippery. SEPTA will dispatch cleaning crews overnight to reduce the problem.

Regional Rail riders should be prepared for delays in the coming weeks, as fallen leaves can cause problems on SEPTA's train tracks. 

Autumn is a time of year often referred to as slippery rail season. It begins in late October when leaves fall from trees onto the tracks of the Regional Rail Lines, where they are crushed by passing trains. The smashed leaves create a residue that coats the rails, decreasing the friction between the steel rails and the trains' wheels. Train operators operators adjust to the conditions by reducing their speeds on inclines and declines or when approaching station platforms.

MORE: Illegally parked cars delay some of SEPTA's busiest bus routes, but AI may boost enforcement, study suggests

Slippery tracks are especially problematic during wet and windy weather.

Starting next week, SEPTA will take steps to limit these delays, dispatching overnight crews to clean the transit authority's train tracks by blasting away fallen leaves and oily residue with high-pressure washers. A combination of water and gel is used to clean the tracks, and then sand is spread to increase traction. The cleanups will take place Sundays through Fridays until early December.

"Getting our riders to their destination without delays or inconvenience is important, but the safety of our customers and employees always takes precedence," SEPTA's CEO and General Manager Leslie S. Richards said.

Customers can check for real-time service updates on SEPTA's website.

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