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Winter weather

We know you've got places to go

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.

We prepare in advance for winter and here are just a few of the things we do in preparation. 

Ice ice maybe

We’re on the case

  • Running ice and snow-busting trains round 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 

There's no business like snow business 

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. 

What are the Winter Weather Timetables?

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. 

What’s the difference between the Winter Weather and Severe Winter Weather Timetables?

The Winter Weather Timetable is likely to run during ice and light snow which freezes around the electric rail, preventing trains from drawing power. On Mondays to Fridays an enhanced Saturday service with additional Peak services will run. Saturdays and Sundays will also have an amended service. Trains will leave at different times and won’t split and attach, meaning that you may need to change trains.

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. 

Why do you implement them?

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. 

What stations do they apply to?

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

Will services stop calling at some stations?

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

During the Severe Winter Weather Timetables, Southeastern services will not call at these stations - 

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

 

Why are trains still going past the station but not stopping?

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. 

Will you supply alternative transport?

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. 

Under what conditions will you implement the timetables?

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. 

How much notice will passengers be given that it is to be implemented?

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 4 days’ in advance if we can, to give you time to plan. 

How long will the winter weather timetable run for?

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. 

How will passengers be informed about it?

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 4 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 

Why does the timetable remain in place when the forecasted conditions don’t materialise?

Once plans are in place for this, and we’ve advised passengers and employees, we stick to the plan as this gives certainty to everyone about the timetable that will be in place. 

Why can we not run the normal timetable?

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. 

Why do we run an amended timetable when other train companies who are affected by the same conditions don’t?

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. 

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.