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Last updated: 18:45

As temperatures drop and nights draw in, so too come cosy evenings by the fire and the twinkling of festive lights in trees and windows across the country.
But as we head further into the season and the weather takes a turn, problems can arise across the rail network.

When the mercury plummets, even the lightest shower of rain or dusting of snow can freeze and become compacted on the rails, insulating the electric rail and preventing trains from drawing power or being able to move with any speed. And in the worst cases, it prevents them from being able to move at all.

But we know you’ve got places to go.

snow place like home

We’re on the case

  • Running snow-and-ice-busting trains around the clock when winter weather strikes which are fitted with anti-icing fluid to stop the electric rail freezing up, adhesion gel for the rails for wheel grip, and snow ploughs when weather is severe.
  • Fitting points which are most likely to freeze with heaters and NASA-grade insulation to prevent ice forming and them sticking in place.
  • Applying heating strips on those electric rails most likely to freeze.
  • Running empty ‘ghost trains’ overnight to keep tracks and overhead cables free of snow and ice.
  • Changing to a Winter Weather or Severe Winter Weather Timetable to keep trains running.
  • And station teams are ready to go with gritting and snow-clearing 

breaking the ice

Times are changing

On days when we expect the weather to be at its worst, Network Rail instruct us to put in place either a Winter Weather Timetable, or Severe Winter Weather Timetable depending on the weather forecast. These are short-term timetable changes and different to the usual timetable change in December.

On rare days when weather is forecast to be extremely bad with roads and rails impassable, there will be no train service running, but together with Network Rail we will do all we can to avoid this situation to clear tracks and keep trains moving.

Click below to find out more about the timetables that will run during forecasted winter weather. 

We have a plan for winter created in partnership with Network Rail which enables us to keep trains running while they manage the effects of winter weather on the tracks, points and signal equipment.

Part of the plan means that on days when we expect the weather to be at its worst, Network Rail instruct us to put in place either a Winter Weather Timetable, or Severe Winter Weather Timetable depending on the weather forecast. These are short-term timetable changes and different to the usual timetable change in December.

On rare days when weather is forecast to be extremely bad with roads and rails impassable, there will be no train service running, but together with Network Rail we will do all we can to avoid this situation to clear tracks and keep trains moving. 

The Winter Weather Timetable is likely to run during ice and light snow which freezes around the electric rail, preventing trains from drawing power. When this timetable is in place most train times will remain the same, but trains won’t split or attach so you may need to change trains. Please allow extra time for your journey.

The Severe Winter Weather Timetable is likely to run during heavier snow. Trains will leave at different times, many services will be less frequent, and some stations will be closed. We recommend you avoid travelling. 

When the mercury plummets, even the lightest shower of rain or dusting of snow can freeze and become compacted on the rails, insulating the electric rail and preventing trains from drawing power or being able to move with any speed. And in the worst cases, it prevents them from being able to move at all.
 
Snow and ice also causes points - which allow trains to move between tracks - to freeze solid, or get jammed with compacted snow. When this happens, trains can’t safely run over them.
 
The couplers that join carriages together can also become iced up, making it difficult to join them together, or split them apart, and reducing the number of trains we have available.

The more times trains stop and start in ice and snow, the more likely it is that they won’t get enough power to get going again, and by running the winter timetables, we enable trains to stop and start less which means they are less likely to get stuck. 

Both the Winter Weather and Severe Winter Weather Timetables will apply to all stations. 

Our plans are based on expert weather forecasts, but even the experts get it wrong sometimes. We aim to give you as much notice as possible if the timetable needs to change. But we know how frustrating it can be if the weather turns out better than forecast.

The day before we change the timetable, we have to make sure all our trains are moved to the right sidings and depots overnight and our train crew all know where they’re supposed to be and when. Once these plans are in place, and we’ve provided clear travel advice to our passengers, we stick to the plan so you can be sure which trains will be running and when.

Winter weather often affects different places in different ways – so some of our network might be blanketed with snow and ice while other areas have none at all. And while it may look clear where you are, our trains often need to travel from places where conditions are much worse, or were earlier in the day.

We make sure the night before that our trains and people are in the right places for the Winter Weather timetable that’s running. We can’t change the timetable part-way through the day, as none of the trains or people would be in the right places, and it would cause serious disruption.  So once these plans are in place, and we’ve provided clear travel advice to our passengers, we stick to the plan so you can be sure which trains will be running and when.

During the Winter Weather Timetable, Southeastern services will not call at Crofton Park or Ore. 
During the Severe Winter Weather Timetable, Southeastern services will not call at these stations -  

 

 Adisham   Dumpton Park  Maidstone West 
 Aylesford  East Farleigh  Martin Mill
 Aylesham  East Malling  Minster
 Barming  Elephant & Castle  New Hythe
 Bekesbourne  Farningham Road  Newington
 Bellingham  Frant  Northfleet (served by other operator)
 Beltring  Halling  Nunhead
 Bromley North  Harrietsham  Ore
 Canterbury East  Higham (served by other operator)  Peckham Rye
 Charing  Hollingbourne  Pluckley
 Chartham  Kearsney  Queenborough
 Chestfield & Swalecliffe  Kemsing  Sandling
 Chilham  Kemsley  Sandwich
 Crofton Park  Knockholt  Selling
 Crowhurst  Lenham  Sheerness-on-sea
 Cuxton  London Blackfriars  Shepherds Well
 Deal  Loughborough Junction  Snodland
 Denmark Hill  Maidstone Barracks  Snowdown

We appreciate that if the changes apply to your journey then this will be inconvenient. Trains won’t stop at some stations because the more times they stop and start in ice and snow, the more likely it is that they won’t get enough power to get going again and become stuck. So we focus on running trains to busier stations to offer a more reliable timetable in severe winter weather. 

Because ice and snow insulates the electric rail and prevents trains from drawing power, we’ve planned services to be at least two ‘units’ (two trains joined together, made up of varying carriage lengths). Each unit connects to the third rail, so if one is having trouble drawing power, the other one should still be able to, and the train can keep moving. This means some trains will be longer than usual, and some will be shorter, but they should run more reliably in the winter weather.

We won’t offer rail replacement buses as an alternative to train services, because when the weather is forecast to be this severe, we don’t expect that we’d be able to run them reliably or at all. 

We hold a daily call with Network Rail in winter to ensure that we can react to differing weather conditions. On the daily call, Network Rail advise us if weather is forecast to be particularly bad, and that we need to put in place either the Winter Weather or Severe Winter Weather Timetable.

The Winter Weather timetable is likely to run during ice and light snow and the Severe Winter Weather timetable is likely to run during heavier snow.

The more times trains stop and start in ice and snow, the more likely it is that they won’t get enough power to get going again, and by running the winter timetables, we enable trains to stop and start less which means they are less likely to get stuck. 

 

Because the timetable is put in place based on the weather forecast, to allow the forecast to be as accurate as possible, we aim to give you a minimum of 24 hours’ notice that the timetable will change. But we’ll also let you know that we may be changing the timetable 3 days’ in advance if we can, to give you time to plan. 

We run these timetables when bad winter weather is forecast, and so the length of time that they run will depend on the weather. Once the worst of the weather is over, and Network Rail advise us to run our normal timetable, we’ll need time to get our trains and people back to where they need to be.  

The Winter Weather and Severe Winter Weather Timetables that will run on days when the weather is forecast to be particularly bad are on our website now, so you can plan for the changes.

We aim to give you a minimum of 24 hours’ notice that the timetable will change. But we’ll also let you know that we may be changing the timetable 3 days’ in advance if we can, to give you time to plan.

We’ll let you know in advance on our website that we’re changing the timetable. On the day, departure screens on platforms will show the services that are running, and announcements will be made.

Tweet us to find out about your service @Se_Railway #SEwinter 

When the mercury plummets, even the lightest shower of rain or dusting of snow can freeze and become compacted on the rails, insulating the electric rail and preventing trains from drawing power or being able to move with any speed. And in the worst cases, it prevents them from being able to move at all.

Snow and ice also causes points - which allow trains to move between tracks - to freeze solid, or get jammed with compacted snow. When this happens, trains can’t safely run over them.

The couplers that join carriages together can also become iced up, making it difficult to join them together, or split them apart, and reducing the number of trains we have available.

The more times trains stop and start in ice and snow, the more likely it is that they won’t get enough power to get going again, and by running the winter timetables, we enable trains to stop and start less which means they are less likely to get stuck.

We make the decision based on the factors involved in running our particular train service in the South East. Different operators will have different factors involved which they will base their decision on. For example, Network Rail would advise them which lines they could safely keep open, and a timetable would be created for that situation. 

Delay Repay works as usual and will be paid based on the Winter Weather Timetable that’s running, and if your journey was delayed by 15 minutes or more. 

During a day when we’re running a Winter Weather Timetable and you have pre-booked tickets, and need to make a connection on a service with another train company, you can use your Southeastern tickets earlier to help you make your connection, at no extra cost.

If you have a pre-booked ticket (including an Advance ticket) and you’re unable to travel, you can claim a full refund as an ‘abandoned journey’. Claims must be made within 28 days after the ticket has expired and can be done at a station or online.

If one of the Winter Weather Timetables is implemented, some stations won’t have a service. If you can’t travel as a result, then you can apply for a full refund as an abandoned journey. If you decide to travel, but from a different station, you’ll be entitled to Delay Repay based on the Winter Weather Timetable that’s running, and if your journey was delayed by 15 minutes or more. 

We’ll make contact with the other train company to try and arrange for you to be able to use the tickets on a different day. If that’s not possible then you’ll be entitled to a full refund of your tickets and if you incur any additional costs please send these to customer services who will consider any reasonable claims. 

If the train you intended to travel on is cancelled or delayed and you decide not to travel, that’s known as an ‘abandoned journey’. You can return your unused ticket to the original retailer or Train Company from whom it was purchased, and receive a full refund with no administration fee charged.

This applies to all tickets, including tickets that are usually non-refundable (such as Advance), and also applies if you have begun your journey but are unable to complete it due to delay or cancellations and return to your point of origin.

As there is a planned timetable in place, and to manage the numbers of people travelling, on the days when this timetable is running (unless your ticket is valid for high speed) then you will not be able to use your ticket to travel on the high speed service.

We’ve arranged for your ticket to be accepted on the Docklands Light Railway between Lewisham and Greenwich, and on the London Underground at no extra cost to help you complete your journey. 

When we run one of the Winter Weather Timetables, we won’t offer alternative transport as part of the timetable plan, and so would not refund a taxi fare.

However, we do consider claims for a taxi fare refund on a case by case basis, and each case reviewed on its own merits. Please contact our Customer Services team explaining why you took a taxi and remember to attach a copy of your taxi receipt and your train ticket. 

The science bit

Although the long, warm days of summer may feel like a distant memory, the arrival of winter needn’t be a bad thing. As temperatures drop and nights draw in, so too come cosy evenings by the fire and the twinkling of festive lights in trees and windows across the country.
But as we head further into the season and the weather takes a turn, problems can arise across the rail network.

When the mercury plummets, even the lightest shower of rain or dusting of snow can freeze and become compacted on the rails, turning into dangerous ice. Not only does this freeze around the electric rail and create an insulating effect preventing trains from drawing power and being able to move with any speed – in the worst cases, it prevents them from being able to move at all.

Snow and ice also causes points - which allow trains to move between tracks - to freeze solid, or get jammed with compacted snow. When this happens, trains can’t safely run over them. The couplers that join carriages together can also become iced up, making it difficult to join them together, or split them apart, and reducing the number of trains we have available.

When winter weather strikes we run snow-and-ice-busting trains round the clock to keep you moving. These special trains are kitted out with anti-icing fluid, which works in a similar way to salt gritters on the road, preventing our electric rail from freezing in the first place. And they apply an adhesion gel to the tracks so that trains can get grip.

We also fit certain points along the tracks, particularly in places where trains change direction to other lines, with heaters and NASA-grade insulation to further prevent ice build-up. That’s right, the battle against snow and ice has become space-age.

To try to keep disruptions to your journeys to a minimum, we may have to make some changes to our timetables when bad weather hits. Some services will be less frequent, and some stations may close, but this allows us to complete all the work needed to keep you moving, albeit a little slower than usual to keep you and our staff as safe as possible.