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Preparing for the summer heat

When the temperature soars, things really heat up for our rail infrastructure – and it can’t cool down with a cheeky pint or an ice cream in the garden. Metal rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20°C hotter than air temperature, and have been known to get as hot as 51°C! And because they’re made from steel – they expand when they heat up, so rails may buckle, and points can expand.

When our monitoring systems tell us that a section of track is likely to expand, we’ll put in place speed restrictions to reduce the chance of rails buckling, so you may find your journey a little slower than usual. We work with Network Rail well in advance to make sure that your railway is ‘hot weather ready’, then keep a close eye on the forecast and check the infrastructure throughout the summer.

How we beat the heat

  • Check that train windows, air-conditioning and vents are working correctly – nearly half our trains are air-conditioned
  • Water available at stations to keep you hydrated
  • Bespoke weather forecasts and high-tech equipment to monitor rail temperatures
  • Reflective paint so rails stay cool and expand less – rails painted white can be 10°C cooler!
  • Helicopter inspections of the tracks using a thermal-imaging camera
  • Vegetation and litter cleared to prevent line-side fires
  • Speed restrictions where rails are particularly hot, so that trains can move safely along the track

How you can beat the heat

We know just how tricky it can be to stay hydrated in the summer. Between dashing to the office, gym, or school pick-up, you could find yourself feeling faint if you’ve not remembered to cool down with a cold drink. That’s why we’ve come up with some tips for keeping your cool while travelling by train this summer:

  • Carry water with you
  • Don’t board a train if you feel unwell
  • If you feel unwell while on-board, get off at the next stop and our staff will be able to help you
  • Avoid using the emergency alarm on-board if you’re feeling unwell – we can get help to you more quickly at the next station


Beat the heat FAQs

We operate three types of service on our network – High Speed, Mainline and Metro – and nearly half of our trains are air-conditioned.
We run Javelins on our High Speed routes, Networkers and Mainline Electrostars on Mainlines, and Networkers and Metro Electrostars on suburban Metro services. The Javelins and Mainline Electrostars are air-conditioned, while the Networkers and Metro Electrostars are not.
Networkers were built in the early 1990s by British Rail, when it wasn't usual to fit air conditioning to metro-style trains. It would be incredibly difficult to retrofit air-conditioning to these trains due to their age, limited space, and the extra power supply needed to drive the air-conditioners. Metro Electrostars are much newer - built around 2004 – but air-conditioning units at that time weren’t powerful enough to manage the regular change of air from the frequent stops made on Metro routes. Instead, they have a pressure ventilation system that continually introduces fresh air into the train.
While we can’t retrofit air-conditioning to these types of train, technology has advanced and any newly built trains introduced to the network will have air-conditioning as standard. In October 2017, we introduced 68 extra air-conditioned carriages to our train fleet, which allowed us to boost capacity on some of our busiest services. 
Train heating is controlled by thermostats on each individual train and is set by our engineering depots. Some of our trains that operate in our “Metro” area don’t have air conditioning so, in the summer months, the heating on these trains is turned off.
If you are on board one of our trains and have a concern about the heating, please do get in touch and let us know. It will really help us identify the train if you could include the carriage number when contacting us, this can usually be found at the end of each carriage near the doors. We can then either make arrangements for the heating to be turned off (on trains where this is possible) or have the train checked by our engineering team to see if there is a fault with the system. 
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