Wessex route gets ready for record-breaking heatwave on Thursday 25 July: Waterloo approaches the final stages this evening

Wednesday 24 Jul 2019

Wessex route gets ready for record-breaking heatwave on Thursday 25 July

Region & Route:
  • Whilst most of the railway operates normally in hot conditions, Network Rail and South Western Railway are working together to mitigate the impact of what could be record-breaking temperatures
  • Network Rail has activated its ‘extreme weather action teams’ (EWATs) on the South Western Railway network to minimise heat-related infrastructure problems and keep passengers moving safely
  • Passengers are advised to check services before travelling, with large numbers expected to head out across the south west to enjoy the warm weather over the next few days

Our network is made of steel track which absorbs heat easily. In direct sunshine rails can exceed 50 degrees, causing them to expand. In extreme cases, when rails cannot expand any further, they can buckle.

To reduce the likelihood of buckling, in the most vulnerable locations during the hottest times of the day, we may have to introduce speed restrictions as slower trains apply lower forces to our rails.

To prepare for these high temperatures we have painted the most at-risk rails white, so they absorb less heat, reducing temperatures by up to 10 degrees. Cooling equipment has also been fitted to a number of other key assets across the Wessex route.

David Dickson, managing director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said:

“With temperatures expected to exceed 35 degrees across the route this week, getting passengers to their destinations safely is our top priority.

“We will be doing all we can, along with our colleagues at South Western Railway, to keep passengers moving safely and comfortably throughout the heatwave.”

Passengers travelling via London Waterloo or Clapham Junction can top up water bottles at free refill points. There are two refill points at Waterloo, located on The Balcony adjacent to Platform 1 and on the ground floor concourse located next to Exit 2. At Clapham Junction a refill point can be found next to the main entrance barriers.

If you feel unwell before you start your journey, please do not travel. If you feel unwell while travelling, please get off at the next stop and speak with a member of staff.

Notes to Editors

  • Since the last hottest summer in 2003, in 2018, we reduced the number of buckled rail incidents by 83%.
  • When installing our steel rails, we use a process called stressing to protect against buckling. Stressing the rails allows us to set the range of temperatures the track can comfortably cope with. Stressing our rails to cope with higher summer temperatures would mean making them less able to cope with low temperatures during the winter. Our rails have a stress-free temperature of 27oC, the average summer rail temperature in the UK. You can find more info here - https://www.networkrail.co.uk/why-rails-buckle-in-britain/
  • Long periods without rain can mean the ground underneath the tracks dries out and shrinks, creating pothole-like cracks. Much like on the roads, trains can’t drive at full speed over these defects and have to slow down to keep passengers safe. 
  • Our teams work hard all year round to reduce minimise the disruption caused by hot weather. You can find more information about what we do here -https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/delays-explained/buckled-rail/
  • More information on climate change and weather resilience on the railway is available here - https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/environment/climate-change-weather-resilience/

Contact information

Passengers / community members
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Latest travel advice
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Network Rail press office - James Crook
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