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Disruption Terminology


The rail industry sometimes uses words and expressions that aren’t always clear to people who don’t work in it.  Here are a couple of explanations of ones that are widely used in the autumn.

Third Rail

This refers to the rail that supplies electric current to Merseyrail trains. It is slightly raised and usually located to the right of the track.

Railhead conditions

This is about the cleanliness of the top of the rails. At this time of year, layers of fallen leaves become wet and get squashed by the train wheels, making the rails slippery. Drivers then have to reduce speed, which can lead to delays and cancellations. This can also be referred to as adhesion problems. 

Problems with lineside equipment

This is about the signalling system and can refer to:

  • Track circuit failure

A track circuit detects where a train is on a particular section of the network. When there is a problem, the signals on it revert to red, which brings the train to a stop. It can also be referred to as axle counter failure.

  • Points failure

This is when the section that switches trains from one route to another becomes stuck in one direction and causes signals to remain on red. Trains are unable to continue till the matter is resolved.

On some occasions Merseyrail trains will run as semi-fast services to help restore a disrupted timetable. Click here for more information on semi-fast trains.