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UK’s railways threaten to buckle as temperatures soar

Railways across the country have been marred by delays and cancellations due to railway lines buckling as temperatures are sky-high in the midst of a heatwave hitting the UK this week.

During abnormally-high temperatures the steel rails are vulnerable to expand and, if not carefully monitored, can buckle causing travel disruption.

Network Rail is introducing slower ‘heat speeds’ on some routes from 12pm to 8pm today to accommodate the spike in temperature across the UK, adding that passengers should be aware of potential disruptions and to check ahead before setting off for rail journeys.

Buckled Lines c Network RailLines near Glasgow buckled due to the heat yesterday. Image credit: Network Rail

Monday was the hottest day of the year so far in the UK, with temperatures reaching as high as 30°C in London— and high pressure is predicted to linger over the country for the rest of the week.

Amongst the fortifications to protect lines from the heat, Network Rail has installed mini weather-stations and track-side probes to monitor local conditions, painted parts of the rail white so they absorb less heat, and is continually working with specialist weather forecasters to make plans and take action to prevent rails from buckling.

Thousands of passengers faced delays and cancellations on Monday evening after signalling failures caused by hot weather resulted in disruption from lines between London Euston and King’s Cross stations, whilst areas around Hertfordshire also suffered major delays.

Scotland also suffered rail frustration as delays on ScotRail lines through North Queensferry caused services to be interrupted.

Andy Thomas, managing director of England and Wales at Network Rail, said: “On very sunny days, rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20°C above air temperature causing the steel to expand markedly and could, if not carefully monitored and action taken, buckle causing travel disruption.

“Our engineers and specialist extreme weather teams are monitoring track-side temperatures and vulnerable locations and will, if necessary, introduce temporary speed restrictions during the hottest part of the day to keep trains running, albeit more slowly than normal.”

Temperatures are set to be higher than Brazil and Athens this week.

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Image credit: Network Rail


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