Network Rail Response to Heatwave Disruption
I have received the following response from Rob McIntosh, Managing Director, Eastern, Network Rail, to my letter asking what plans Network Rail are putting in place to prevent the level of disruption we saw recently as a result of the hot weather:
“Initially I want to acknowledge the understandable concerns which you’ve expressed about the impact of climate change and how increasing extremes of weather will affect our railways. This is something which it is extremely important that we plan adequately for and so I welcome the opportunity to provide more information about the work my team has done and will be doing in the future on this.
“In addition to the interventions outlined in my update from 30 July to proactively put in place a temporary speed restriction between Leicester and London St Pancras and reactively undertake repairs to damaged overhead line equipment at Belsize Tunnel, we prepare for and manage hot weather by utilising a number of other methods.
“The design and condition of the track is one of the key aspects of this. I can confirm that there are no sections of jointed track on the passenger route between Sheffield and London St Pancras. This means that there are significantly fewer instances of the tracks buckling in very high temperatures due to them expanding.
“Rail is also painted white at some vulnerable locations, such as at Trent South Junction in Leicestershire, where this improves asset reliability and prevents failures caused by the steel expanding. Our use of this intervention on the Midland Main Line is fairly limited though because track inspections are predominantly carried out by our Plain Line Pattern Recognition Train, which makes use of high-density cameras and lasers and so can be impeded when rail is white due to the reflective glare which is caused.
“In terms of our activity whilst the hot weather is happening, my Track Maintenance Engineers use remote monitoring temperature probes, located at critical locations across the Midland Main Line, to provide the route with up-to-date temperature readings. This allowed the targeted deployment of inspection teams to sites along the route during the event last month, after it recorded a rail temperature in London of 54 degrees, in Bedford and Kettering of 56, and in Leicester of 53. These are amongst the highest we can remember. The approach we follow ensures sites are monitored and speed restrictions are imposed which balanced safety against trying to keep passengers moving.
“Our rail on the Midland Main Line is stress-tested to the high standard of the industry, and this meant that once some speed restrictions were put in place we were able to manage the impact of the hot weather on the track. On the London North Eastern and East Midlands Route we had around 350 members of my team deployed to watch the tracks after passing trains to make sure there was no track movement taking place. In addition we also used extra response teams to manage weather-related infrastructure failures.
“I do appreciate though that this will be of little comfort to Mr Yasin’s constituents who were so severely affected, especially by the overhead line failure near West Hampstead, and again want to provide an assurance that this is something we will learn the lessons from. If you require any further information about specific aspects of our response which aren’t contained above or in my update from 30 July and which the review will be looking at then of course that will something we will be happy to provide.
“I hope that this is a helpful summary of the broad range of interventions we employed last month to try to keep passengers moving, but please do accept my apologies for the impact the disruption had for passengers in Bedford.”