RAIL tracks are being painted white and doused with sprinklers by Network Rail to keep them cool in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the heat-related disruption which has plagued the Scottish network over the last two weeks.
• Rail tracks to be doused with sprinklers and painted white to keep them cool
• High temperatures and lightning strikes have caused significant delays to rail networks in Scotland
The moves come as part of a recovery plan agreed with transport minister Keith Brown when he met executives from the track and signalling firm yesterday to ensure such problems were being dealt with.
Commuters have suffered delays and cancellations because of high temperatures affecting signalling and tracks, including in Edinburgh. Overhead wire faults, lightning strikes and vandalism have added to the misery.
Mr Brown said: “I am acutely aware of the need to give comfort to passengers who expect to see trains run on time and that the rail industry is responding by doing everything possible to deal quickly and effectively with events that hit hard on services.
“Despite a strong performance in the early part of this year, performance in recent weeks has given me cause for concern.
“Network Rail outlined that unusually high temperatures in recent weeks created a number of signalling issues across areas of the rail network which have impacted on passenger services, and that they are implementing short-term contingency measures to minimise those effects.
“These include installing sprinklers to cool the track and painting vulnerable sections of track white to reflect heat.”
The minister also stressed it was crucial that passengers were kept informed during disruption.
The recent problems have almost all been the responsibility of Network Rail, but the way delays are handled has been a chronic problem for ScotRail, which independent passenger surveys repeatedly show has yet to be solved.
The latest poll, published last month showed only 43 per cent of those questioned were satisfied with Scotland’s main train operator’s delay handling.
Mr Brown said: “Communications is of course key to keeping the public updated on any impacts and what is being done to address these, and I stressed the need for the industry to keep rail passengers informed at every turn.”
David Simpson, Network Rail’s route managing director for Scotland, said: “We share the minister’s concerns over the current performance of the network. Scotland is usually one of the strongest parts of the UK railway, with punctuality levels reaching a record 93 per cent last year.
“We are working hard to manage the infrastructure issues we are currently facing and to put in place plans to improve performance.
“Over the last two months, a range of factors – including extreme heat, vandalism to equipment, and, in the last two days, lightning strikes – have contributed to the issues we have faced, but we are confident we can respond positively to the challenge of restoring performance to previous levels.”
A spokeswoman for ScotRail said: “Our handling of delays has improved over the last three years and we’re higher than the average score for UK train companies.”