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How the weather affects the railway

Find out why bad weather can cause delays on Thameslink trains and see the steps we take to minimise potential disruptions.

How will I know if my train journey is affected?

To check the latest information on live running information. You can also check our Twitter page @TLRailUK

Buckling rails

The hot weather can also affect the rails, which can expand, bend and even break in the heat.

We sometimes have to slow down trains to reduce pressure on parts of the line, which can disrupt services.

What we’re doing: Network Rail is on the case, and regularly repairs rails before the start of summer.

Flooding

Can’t stand the rain? Getting soggy or soaked to the skin is bad enough, but heavy rain can also lead to flooding and delays.

Flood water can damage equipment and cut power to the train, or wash away ballast (crushed stone) and weaken the track. 

What we’re doing:
Network Rail has flood defence teams and pumping stations ready to respond to any flood warnings. It has a programme of works aimed at flood prevention, for example by clearing drainage ditches and lifting up low-lying sections of track at risk from flooding.

Fog

Fog can make it harder for our drivers to see signals, so they have to slow down to keep you safe. 

What we’re doing: We’re moving towards a new signalling system for inside the train cab, so our drivers won’t have to rely so much on outside signals.

High winds

Strong winds can blow branches, trees and debris onto the train track and pull down overhead power lines.

What we’re doing: Network Rail teams regularly inspect and clear the side of the track. And they’re reducing the gaps between the supports for overhead power lines in windy areas.

Leaves on the line

Thousands of tonnes of leaves fall on railway lines every year. 

The leaves get crushed down into a layer of mucky mulch by passing trains, making it harder for the trains to grip the track and brake. This also confuses our signals, which rely on the electric currents in the track to work out where the trains are. 

What we’re doing: Network Rail has a fleet of trains cleaning the rails with water jets, and teams who work around the clock on rails with descaling machines.

Keeping cool in the summer

Some like it hot, but it can sometimes be too much if you’re travelling in the summertime. 

While it’s very hot it’s worth carrying a bottle of water around with you when you travel.

If the heat gets to you, ask us for help at the station. 

What we’re doing: Luckily, most our trains have air conditioning. We’re also bringing in brand new air-conditioned trains on more of our routes over the next two years.

Snow and ice

Wintry weather can mean trouble on the rails.

Snow can stop points from working, drifts can block train lines, and ice can stop trains from getting power from electrified rails. Weak rails can also break when it’s below freezing.

What we’re doing: Network Rail has trains fitted with snow ploughs and steam jets. And staff work day and night to clear snow and ice from the tracks. They also regularly check for defects in rails.

How do cold, icy conditions cause delays and disruption to train services?

Our train services use a combination of overhead wires and electric third rails to take electricity and power. When it’s very cold, ice can build up on this equipment and cause problems, stopping the trains taking power like they normally would. Snow and ice also affect signalling points working as they should. This too can cause delays and disruption to train services.

What are you and Network Rail doing to prevent autumn and winter weather having an impact on train services?

We work very closely with Network Rail to minimise the impact seasonal weather has on your train service. Network Rail, who own and maintain the track, signalling equipment and power supplies have special rail cleaning trains which run every night in autumn and winter cleaning the tracks. They also remotely monitor the temperatures of their equipment and have several Snow and Ice Treatment trains.

For more information and to see what more Network Rail are doing to help this:

Leaf fall information

 

Snow and ice information

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