Rail network stays cool slashing hot weather delays
Disruption to train passengers from high temperatures has been dramatically cut thanks to measures such as painting tracks white, the ScotRail Alliance has revealed.
A total of 56 trains were late on the hottest day so far this year compared with 739 when temperatures were at their highest last summer.
Rail chiefs said the number of delayed trains would have remained in their hundreds had the work not been done.
This year’s high was on 25 July when Edinburgh hit a new record of 31.6C, while the peak last year was on 28 June when Glasgow reached a new high of 31.9C.
Thousands of passengers were hit by last year’s peak temperature, with trains halted at Glasgow Central – the country’s busiest station – for two evenings in a row.
The two lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street were among several others severely affected.
By contrast, speed restrictions had to be imposed at only about ten locations on 25 July, in Ayrshire and Argyll.
The number of sites where rails reached critical temperatures was also down, from 201 to 35.
ScotRail’s alliance partner Network Rail Scotland (NRS) said more than £3 million had been spent to prevent 20mph speed restrictions being imposed when temperatures soared.
Hundreds of sets of points at junctions have been painted white, while track at some 200 “at risk” sites has been stretched to make them less prone to buckling in the heat. The rails there have now been stressed for air temperatures of up to 35C compared with 30C previously.
NRS chief operating officer Liam Sumpter described the reduced disruption as a “huge improvement”.
He told Scotland on Sunday: “We have invested heavily so Scotland’s railway is robust enough for Scotland’s new weather - 2018 was not a one-off. We are likely to see more hot summers.
“A day like 28 June last year is not acceptable. People deserve a railway they can rely on in what are increasingly normal temperatures.”
Sumpter said stressing the rails to higher temperatures – common in hotter countries – would not necessarily make them more prone to damage in freezing conditions.
He said work was also being done to make overhead wires which power the trains more resilient in high temperatures. Even those built a decade ago on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Bathgate need upgrading.
Sumpter said wires on the line had sagged in the heat on 25 July, disrupting trains.
The number of NRS weather resilience staff has been increased from one to three, and access to hotspots improved so remedial work can be completed faster.
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus said the work had been vital because it could be unpleasant to travel in the heat.
Robert Samson, its Scotland-based senior stakeholder manager, said: “The preventative work undertaken by Network Rail has benefited passengers by reducing the number of delays. This is welcome as passengers are travelling in hot and uncomfortable weather conditions.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which funds the alliance, said: “Any reduction in cancellations is welcome and this significant drop demonstrates the benefits of the ScotRail Alliance’s focus on seasonal preparedness.
“While most of us are still enjoying the last of the summer weather, we know work is already under way and investment being made to make Scotland’s railway even more resilient ahead of autumn and winter.”