During winter, there’s nothing like the breathtaking sight of a thick blanket of sparkling snow when you pull your curtains open. But as the weather takes a turn, problems can arise across the rail network, just as they do on the roads.
When the temperature drops, even the lightest 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 stops them from being able to move at all.
Compacted snow also causes points - which allow trains to move between tracks - to freeze solid or get jammed. When this happens, trains can’t safely run over them.
Snow drifts (large piles of snow formed by the wind) are a potential hazard, and our drivers have to be very careful even when the snow might seem light in some areas.
But we know you’ve got places to go.
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.
We also fit certain points along the tracks, particularly in places where trains change direction to other lines, with heaters and insulation to prevent snow and ice building up.
To try to keep disruptions to your journeys to a minimum, we may have to make some changes to our timetable 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.
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.
This winter, be sure to check before you travel and take extra care. Up-to-date information about our services is available on our live information page, our Southeastern app and Twitter @Se_Railway. Find out more about our winter weather plans.