Taking a leaf out of the Met Office practice of issuing “yellow warnings of rain”, Northern Rail has begun posting “leaf fall forecasts” every morning, separated into four “risk categories” coded yellow, orange, red and black.
The most severe, “black risk” is said to involve “extremely slippery rail conditions” and an “extreme risk of delays”. At the other end of the scale, a yellow warning is still said to involve a “low risk” of late-running services.
The company has even commissioned a video on YouTube, explaining the risk to passengers.
A spokesman acknowledged: “We know ‘Leaves on the Line’ takes the brunt of many jokes.”
But some users on Twitter appeared in no mood to leave the issue alone.
One posted: “Let’s see how many invisible leaves hold up my train today.”
Another added: “Man solved how to travel to moon nearly 50 years ago. Travel to London by train with leaves on line still a mystery.”
A Northern Rail spokesman said the majority of comments they had received were positive.
Last week, Northern Rail’s stock of old carriages was labelled “a laughing stock not fit for a burgeoning economy”.
Martin Abrams of the Campaign for Better Transport said thousands of passengers were travelling on trains “simply not fit for purpose”, and urged the Government to come up with a plan to replace outdated rolling stock.
“In the North of England passengers are still having to endure the decrepit old Pacer trains,” he said. “The problem is there’s no national rolling stock strategy from the Government and that’s what needs to change.”
The current Northern Rail franchise will end next spring, with preferred bidders due to be announced next month.