When Britain enjoys a summer heatwave, rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20°C hotter than air temperature. Because rails are made from steel, they expand as they get hotter, and can start to curve – known as buckling.
Most of the network can operate when track temperatures heat up to 46°C – roughly equivalent to air temperature of around 30°C – but rails have been recorded at temperatures as high as 51°C.
When our remote monitoring systems tell us that a section of track might be expanding too much and could cause problems, we introduce local speed restrictions. Slower trains exert lower forces on the track – this reduces the chance of buckling.
Rails sometimes buckle even with prevention in place, and this means we need to close the line and repair the track before trains can run again. This can disrupt journeys because we often have to wait until the rail temperature has dropped before we can carry out these essential repairs.
We work closely with specialist weather forecasters and local weather stations to make necessary plans and take action so rails are less likely to buckle.
Find out more, including why rails buckle in Britain here.
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