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ScotRail puts severe weather plans in place for winter

ScotRail has outlined its extreme winter weather plans as Scotland prepares to be hit by Storm Caroline.

Winter impacts on the railway, with the effects ranging from speed restrictions to service suspension.

To avoid objects which may have been blown onto the line by high winds, trains travel slower to ensure that they can stop safely, and heavy rain can cause flooding and landslips, meaning that trains need to be stopped until a thorough safety inspection of the track has been carried out.

Low temperatures can freeze points, preventing trains from accessing certain routes, and can sometimes prevent carriages attaching, leading to fewer carriages on a given service.

Trains can be damaged by snow and ice paling from the undercarriage and bouncing back up, which takes the trains out of service for safety checks.

In its efforts to limit the impacts of winter on its service, ScotRail has announced that it will use meteorologists to map adverse weather, and deploy engineers and chainsaw teams where required, and will seek to remove any potentially dangerous trees prior to the arrival of high winds.

To combat cold weather a helicopter with thermal imaging will be used to highlight areas where cold weather could cause problems.

To defrost key parts of the railway affected by snow or ice a ‘winter train,’ featuring hot air blowers and heat-lances, and costing £1m, will be used across Scotland, and the operator has said that 10 snow ploughs will be on standby.

Maintenance depots are being fitted with heated polytunnels, space heaters and heated, high pressure ‘jet washes’, to reduce the time required to defrost trains.

ScotRail has also said that contingency timetables will be created if severe weather is expected.

David Dickinson, infrastructure director at ScotRail Alliance, explained that winter is “challenging” for the railway due to the damage that snow and ice can cause to trains.

He said: “That’s why we have invested in specialist equipment, so that when bad weather strikes we can keep our customers moving.

“Our staff will be working flat out, night and day, to get customers where they need to be, while ensuring that the safety of our customers and staff remains our number one priority.”

Minister for transport and the islands, Humza Yousaf, added: “We are working closely with the ScotRail Alliance to ensure they are ready for the challenges winter will bring, including Storm Caroline.”

He continued: “At the forefront of that effort are the scores of staff working round the clock in all kinds of challenging weather to keep trains moving.

“The ScotRail Alliance is doing all it can to minimise seasonal disruption as far as possible but some disruption is inevitable.”

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