The new gel, called Wheel Rail Conditioner (WRC), will be tested on a large scale both this autumn and in autumn 2021 during the leaf fall season when rails can become slippery causing trains to have difficulty accelerating and braking.

Netherlands Railways (NS) will equip 58 Stadler Flirt 3 Sprinter EMUs with dispensers to apply the gel to the top of the railhead. The tests will take place in the south and east of the Netherlands.

Diagram showing how the WRC gel applicator works.

Prorail currently applies Sandite, a mixture of small iron pieces, sand and potato starch, to rails where slippery conditions have been detected, using a dozen trains equipped with dispensing equipment.

In contrast with Sandite, WRC is a preventive measure which Prorail believes could also help to reduce wheel noise by about 10 dB.

If the tests are successful, Prorail might switch to WRC in the future.