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Winter weather and the railway

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What winter weather means for our trains

Winter is a time of year with several difficult weather conditions, that affect how we run our trains. These challenges can cause delays, but together with Network Rail, we are working around the clock doing everything we can to keep your trains running safely and reduce delays.

Here are a few examples of how the weather can affect the railway.

Wind

Heavy wind is a serious problem for the railway, because it can blow objects onto the line, so that our trains cannot safely run on the tracks.

Rain

Slippery tracks, caused by heavy rain, means that our trains need to run slower, in order to guarantee safe travel.

Heavy rainfall over a long period of time can cause flooding and landslips.

Snow and ice

Very cold winters make snow and ice a major problem for the railway. Ice can block movable parts of the track, and coat overhead power lines.

Ice can also coat the electrified rails, stopping trains from getting the power they need to run. Ice build-up can also jam train doors. Trains passing underneath tunnels and bridges with icicles can be seriously damaged, and weak rails can break when it’s below freezing.

Drifting snow can block the tracks and when steel gets very cold, tracks can freeze together.

What do we do to make sure trains are running safely in the winter, and reduce delays?

Network Rail has a special fleet of trains equipped with snow ploughs, hot air blowers, steam jets, brushes, scrapers and anti-freeze, that clear snow and ice from the tracks.

Parts of the track are fitted with heating strips, to prevent snow and ice from forming. Fences are put up in some places that prevent snow from blowing onto the tracks, and empty “ghost trains” run in the night to keep tracks clear of snow and ice, making sure our services can run as planned during the day.

Teams are working around the clock to keep your trains running safely and minimise delays in the winter.

Find out more about how winter weather affects the railway, and what Network Rail does to minimise delays here.