On Tuesday, the soaring heat meant that some trains on the main line weren’t stopping at Stratford Station, the main stop for the Olympic Complex. The Tube services between Heathrow and the venue were disrupted on the busiest day for athletes and officials arriving at the airport.
The problems affected Greater Anglia services to and from London Liverpool Station. The heat was affecting the overhead power lines, potentially threatening to damage equipment and the trains themselves. The operator had to impose speed restrictions, and because of this, nine journeys weren’t stopping at Stratford in east London on Tuesday. Instead, they were going straight through. On top of this, there were other delays between London Paddington and Reading because of an issue with lineside equipment. There was also disruption between Gatwick Airport and East Croydon because of a signalling fault.
Greater Anglia warned that there could be delays on the London-Norwich line, while Liverpool Street-Norwich services would operate to Colchester and then to Liverpool Street from midday. It said that it anticipated delays on services from Liverpool Street to, Southend, Colchester, Shenfield, Norwich, Chelmsford, Harwich, Southminster and Ipswich. However, there weren’t any delays expected on services from Liverpool Street to and from Stansted Airport, Cambridge, Enfield Town, Hertford East, and Chingford; or Stratford to Bishop’s Stortford and Broxbourne.
Greater Anglia said that they have sought to cancel as few trains as possible and apologise to customers who have been inconvenienced. Because of speed restrictions imposed due to exceptionally hot weather, they plan to operate a revised service on some routes between 12pm and 7pm on Tuesday. This has been put in place to avoid congestion in the area.
The train operator told customers to use the Tube for the parts of their journey they needed to. London Underground was accepting the company’s tickets from midday until about 10pm on all reasonable routes. This was expected to mean further chaos on already overcrowded lines, where the pressure is building because of visitors arriving in London for the Games.
Network Rail says that the nine disrupted services were out of 500 trains that stop at Stratford in a single day. Greater Anglia runs a total of 1,900 trains a day, it noted. A spokesman also said that they are in the middle of a £200 million project that will totally replace all the overhead lines on the Great Eastern Main Line between London and Chelmsford.
The Network Rail spokesman added, while the main sector from Liverpool Street to Stratford has been finished, the parts of the rail line that have speed restrictions in place have overhead lines that date from the ’50s and ’60s. The wire can expand and sag in high temperatures, and it’s necessary to reduce speeds because of this so that the equipment and trains aren’t damaged. Tuesday’s contingency arrangements are tested and designed to minimise the risk of damage and any disruption to travellers, he added.
This may have come as a shock to passengers, as train companies have previously delayed services due to the wrong kinds of rain and snow. First Capital Connect has had to explain that rain after days of sun can cause wheelspin. Eurostar experienced delays last year due to snowy weather – the snow was melting as the trains entered the warm Channel Tunnel, causing severe condensation that affected the electric equipment on the train.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Bob Crow says that they completely agree that safety has to be a priority. However, they refuse to believe that this move isn’t linked to the systematic cuts that the government has made to rail maintenance and renewal budgets, as well as staffing. Trains are run in hotter countries than Britain without any issue, and they have the right to know why key services are operating on half-a-century old infrastructure with the inevitable consequences experienced on Tuesday, he added.
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