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Network Rail Slows Trains due to Overheating Tracks

Network Rail Logo & TrainThe Met Office has forecast that the UK will get a heatwave this weekend, with temperatures rising to over 30ºC in some areas of the country. However, there are already issues with high temperatures, which have caused overhead wires to overheat. Because of this, speed restrictions have been put on trains.

Network Rail reduced speeds from 90mph to 80mph on the London to Norwich Great Eastern line, which National Express East Anglia operate. However, then the speeds were cut again to just 60mph. The rail company said that they are already doing work on the overhead wires at the weekend for this route. It has introduced a speed restriction during the hottest part of the day.

Yesterday, National Express East Anglia services were due to be affected until 5pm. From noon to 5pm, trains travelling between London Liverpool Street and Braintree in Essex were expected to terminate and begin at Witham, with a revised train service running between there and Braintree. There were also service alterations to be made on other routes to and from Ipswich, Southend Victoria, Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said that it is currently investing over £200 million to replace overhead wires between London, Chelmsford and Southend. The system was installed in the ’40s and ’50s, and it is liable to expand in extremely hot weather. This would cause the lines to sag, which would increase the risk of damage to overhead power equipment if trains are run at full speed.

The company continued that the new system is more reliable and allows it to adjust the tension in the wires to compensate for such high temperatures, which will remove the need to restrict speeds. They apologise for the few services that have been changed, but the overwhelming majority of passengers won’t be affected, they added.

Aside from this concern, there were also fears that temperatures could reach over 40ºC on the London Underground, which is 13 degrees hotter than the legal limit for the transport of cattle. A spokesman for the firm admitted that it would be as long as 4 years before new air conditioning trains were operating on the District, Circle, Hammersmith & City, as well as Metropolitan lines, with the roll-out not being completed until 2016. Thirteen ventilation shafts on the Victoria line are also due to be upgraded, while bosses are working to install portable fans and restore 83 out-of-order ventilation fans throughout the network.

According to a spokesman, the Tube is the oldest metro system, and heat generated from trains on deep-level lines have been passing into tunnels and the clay around them for several years. The tunnels were built only big enough to hold trains, so there is little space for air conditioning outside or inside.

Due to the heatwave, which is the hottest in 5 years, social care organisations and hospitals are on alert for heat-related deaths. There are fears August 2003 will be repeated, when 2,000 more peopled died due to the hot weather. This was a 60% rise in deaths among Britons aged 75 and over.

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