Rail passengers in England and Wales are being warned to only travel if absolutely necessary in the record-breaking hot temperatures forecast from Monday 18 July.
The Met Office has issued a red weather warning for extreme heat in the east of England, the Midlands and parts of the North West on Monday and Tuesday with temperatures forecast to reach as high as 40°C in some areas, including London. An amber warning is in place across the rest of England, Wales and some parts of southern Scotland.
The currently forecasted temperatures will see the introduction of speed restrictions on railway lines across the country to ensure the safe running of trains. The impact on train services will vary by region, but journeys will take significantly longer and there is a high likelihood of cancellations, delays and last-minute alterations.
Passengers who choose to travel despite the warning are being advised to check the status of their journey before travelling and ensure they are well-prepared for the extreme conditions – wearing cool clothes, taking handheld fans and ensuring they have plenty of water to drink. Vulnerable passengers and those with health conditions should avoid travelling on these days.
Rail passengers in Scotland are also being asked to check their journeys before travelling and take sensible precautions.
Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s system operator group director, said:“Rail passengers in England and Wales should only travel if necessary on Monday and Tuesday as there will be delays and cancellations to train services due to the unprecedented heat we’re expecting.
“The wellbeing of our passengers is our first priority so we’re asking all passengers who decide to travel to take time to prepare before leaving the house. Remember to bring a water bottle with you, along with whatever else you need to keep yourself well in the heat. Water bottles can be refilled for free at most Network Rail’s managed stations.
“Journeys will take significantly longer and delays are likely as speed restrictions are introduced to keep passengers and railway staff safe, so make sure to allow considerably more time to complete your journey and be prepared for very hot conditions.
“We’re working closely with MetDesk to monitor forecasts and adapt our plans, and with our train operator colleagues to make sure we can get passengers who need to travel to their destinations safely.”
Network Rail’s specialist teams are in action preparing for the heatwave conditions and response teams will be deployed across the nation to mitigate the impact of these extreme conditions where possible, but passengers are likely to experience disruption if current forecasts are realised.
Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to be around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature. When steel becomes very hot it expands and rails can bend, flex and, in serious cases, buckle.
The overhead electric lines which power trains in some parts of the country are also susceptible to faults in extreme temperatures when the steel wires overheat, which can cause them to hang too low and increase the risk of getting caught on passing trains and knocking out the electricity supply.
Jac Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said:“During hot weather, it’s really important to carry water with you to avoid dehydration. If you start to feel ill, please get off at the next available station and seek help from a member of staff.
“Please allow extra time for your journey on the affected days as speed restrictions can cause delays and cancellations – particularly over longer distances – and check the train running information before you set off.”
Passengers are advised to check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk or with their train operators.
For more information on how Network Rail deals with the hot weather visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/how-we-prevent-tracks-from-getting-too-hot/.
Image credit: Network Rail