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How weather affects the railway

Find out why bad weather can cause delays on Great Northern trains, and what we’re doing to minimise the problems.

Keeping cool in the summer

Some like it hot, but it can sometimes be too much if you’re travelling in the summertime. 

While it’s very hot it’s worth carrying a bottle of water around with you when you travel.

If the heat gets to you, ask us for help at the station. 

What we’re doing: Luckily, most our trains have air conditioning. We’re also bringing in brand new air-conditioned trains on more of our routes over the next two years.

Buckling rails

The hot weather can also affect the rails, which can expand, bend and even break in the heat.

We sometimes have to slow down trains to reduce pressure on parts of the line, which can disrupt services.

What we’re doing: Network Rail is on the case, and regularly repairs rails before the start of summer.

Leaves on the line

Thousands of tonnes of leaves fall on railway lines every year. 

The leaves get crushed down into a layer of mucky mulch by passing trains, making it harder for the trains to grip the track and brake. This also confuses our signals, which rely on the electric currents in the track to work out where the trains are. 

What we’re doing: Network Rail has a fleet of trains cleaning the rails with water jets, and teams who work around the clock on rails with descaling machines.

Snow and ice

If you’re visiting relatives near and far, or have to carry on commuting in the cold, wintry weather can be a real pain.

Snow can stop points from working, drifts can block train lines, and ice can stop trains from getting power from electrified rails. Weak rails can also break when it’s below freezing.

What we’re doing: Network Rail has trains fitted with snow ploughs and steam jets. And staff work day and night to clear snow and ice from the tracks. They also regularly check for defects in rails.

Flooding

Can’t stand the rain? Getting soggy or soaked to the skin is bad enough, but heavy rain can also lead to flooding and delays.

Flood water can damage equipment and cut power to the train, or wash away ballast (crushed stone) and weaken the track. 

What we’re doing:
Network Rail has flood defence teams and pumping stations ready to respond to any flood warnings. It has a programme of works aimed at flood prevention, for example by clearing drainage ditches and lifting up low-lying sections of track at risk from flooding.

Fog

Fog can make it harder for our drivers to see signals, so they have to slow down to keep you safe. 

What we’re doing: We’re moving towards a new signalling system for inside the train cab, so our drivers won’t have to rely so much on outside signals.

High winds

Strong winds can blow branches, trees and debris onto the train track and pull down overhead power lines.

What we’re doing: Network Rail teams regularly inspect and clear the side of the track. And they’re reducing the gaps between the supports for overhead power lines in windy areas.
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