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How seasonal weather affects the railway

Autumn and winter can be a magical time of year with the Christmas holidays and New Year celebrations around the corner. But the autumn and winter weather can have an unwanted effect on Network Rail’s tracks and electrical power equipment causing delays and disruption to your train service.

Autumn and winter can bring with them cold, icy, snowy and slippery conditions as well as a large amount of leaf fall. These can have an effect on a train’s ability to take electrical power, on its wheels’ ability to grip the rails as well as on signalling equipment such as points.

How does leaf fall cause delays and disruption to train services?

As trains run over fallen damp leaves and vegetation, they compress them into a slippery layer that sits on the running rails and reduces grip. As a result trains may have to run at reduced speeds in some areas so that they can accelerate and brake properly. This can cause delays and disruption to train services.

How do cold, icy conditions cause delays and disruption to train services?

Our train services use a combination of overhead wires and electric third rails to take electricity and power. When it’s very cold, ice can build up on this equipment and cause problems, stopping the trains taking power like they normally would. Snow and ice also affect signalling points working as they should. This too can cause delays and disruption to train services.

What are you and Network Rail doing to prevent autumn and winter weather having an impact on train services?

We work very closely with Network Rail to minimise the impact seasonal weather has on your train service. Network Rail, who own and maintain the track, signalling equipment and power supplies have special rail cleaning trains which run every night in autumn and winter cleaning the tracks. They also remotely monitor the temperatures of their equipment and have several Snow and Ice Treatment trains.

For more information and to see what more Network Rail are doing to help this:

Leaf fall information

Snow and ice information