Scotland’s railway gets ready for winter: A snow plough as part of our winter fleet

Wednesday 16 Jan 2019

Scotland’s railway gets ready for winter

Region & Route:

The ScotRail Alliance is preparing for winter as temperatures get set to drop across the country this week.

Freezing conditions and snow can have a significant impact on the railway – affecting the reliability of our infrastructure and trains.

Points (movable sections of track, that allow trains to move from one line to another) can freeze up preventing services from accessing junctions or platforms, and extremely low temperatures can also sometimes prevent train carriages from attaching to each other.

Up to three tons of snow can accumulate on the underside of trains during heavy, prolonged snowfalls and they may have to be taken out of service for safety checks when this happens.


The build-up of snow on hilly lines, or above railway cuttings, can also lead to avalanches, while melting snow can cause landslips.

To minimise the impact of winter weather on services, the ScotRail Alliance – a partnership between Network Rail Scotland and Abellio ScotRail – is putting special plans in place:

  • Meteorologists will map weather events as they approach, allowing us to deploy engineers to where they’re most likely to be needed.
  • A helicopter fitted with thermal imaging equipment will be used to highlight areas to engineers where cold weather could cause problems.
  • A £1 million ‘winter train’ will be used to defrost points and other key parts of the railway affected by snow or ice. The train, which will be used across Scotland, features hot air blowers and heat-lances, which are used to thaw critical infrastructure and allow staff to reopen the line quicker.
  • Snowploughs will also be on standby.
  • Engineers will be working 24/7 to prevent vulnerable infrastructure freezing in the first place, with some equipment being fitted with heaters.
  • Train maintenance depots are being fitted with heated polytunnels, high pressure hot water ‘jet washes’, and space heaters to reduce the time required to defrost trains, and get them back in service quicker.

We will also be working hard to keep passengers up-to-date and, if severe weather is expected, contingency timetables will be created and customers informed.

ScotRail’s website and social media channels will have full details of any changes to the train service.

Customers can learn more at ScotRail’s winter webpage:

Lindsay Saddler, infrastructure director, said: “Winter can be a difficult time for the railway with freezing temperatures and snow posing significant challenges to our operations.

“We work hard throughout the year to prepare, adapting our infrastructure to meet the unique challenges of each season and investing in specialist equipment so that when bad weather strikes we can keep as many services as possible moving.”

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - Nick King
Media relations manager (Scotland)
0141 555 4108 / 07515 617073

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