For the first time during hot weather, a network of new hi-tech weather stations is in action. Quadrant Transport look at how the weather stations can help to reduce rail delays on the West Coast Main Line and rail routes in the West Midlands and Northwest.
To monitor extreme conditions in real-tine, a system of 60 solar-powered weather stations was installed last year to support railway staff in keeping more trains moving instead of imposing region-wide speed limits.
Currently, across Network Rail’s Northwest and Central Region the weather stations are being used to predict where the railway could be at risk of damage with high temperate forecasts. Hot weather, particularly direct sunlight, can cause track temperatures to reach more than 50°C.
Keeping Passengers Moving Will Be The Priority
Giving staff access to real-time data, the £1.3m weather station means that response teams can be sent to the right place at the right time to fix the railway rapidly, therefore will help reduce rail delays.
The scientific surveillance stations measure wind speed and direction, wind gust and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, dew point and rainfall totals (precipitation rate and accumulation).
In the long term, the data that is gathered will support Network Rail weather experts to predict which parts of the network are more vulnerable to bad weather before it even hits.
Denise Wetton, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “Keeping passengers moving is always our top priority. But we want people to be prepared. If the soaring temperatures do lead to us having to put in place slower speeds for safety reasons, it may mean some journeys take longer.”
For those who must travel by rail, we’d remind people to carry some water with them, so they don’t get too parched, and always check before travelling so they know exactly what to expect.
The New Technology Hopes To Respond To Heatwave Issues
Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to hover around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature and when steel becomes very hot it expands, which could see the rails bend, flex and in serious cases, they may buckle.
The network of 25,000 volt overhead electric cables which power cables is also susceptible to hot temperatures. Steel wires may overheat and expand, potentially causing them to sag. If they then hang too low, they could get caught on passing trains which may lead to them coming down.
By using the new technology, Network Rail teams claim that they are ready to respond to any issues caused by the heatwave and impose speed limits in local areas if they are needed.