Two UK rail mainlines close as parts of track hit 62C in extreme heat

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The Guardian

A second day of extreme heat has widened disruption on Britain’s railways, with two of the main lines closed and speed restrictions slowing trains around the country.

Record rail track temperatures of 62C were recorded in Suffolk on Monday, with even higher temperatures expected on Tuesday.

The rising temperatures led Network Rail and train operators overnight to intensify advice to avoid trains to a stark “do not travel” warning for services north out of London, with problems such as buckled rails and broken wires expected to multiply during the day.

The east coast mainline was closed entirely between London and Leeds and York, stopping intercity LNER trains and Thameslink services.

The Midland mainline between Derby, Nottingham and London was also closed from lunchtime as it grew hotter – stopping fast services to London Luton airport, which reopened on Monday evening after heat-related defects closed its runway to flights.

Remaining intercity services on Avanti West Coast, West Midlands and Chiltern were also disrupted.

A dozen buckled rails were reported on Monday around Britain, while overhead lines were broken in two places in north-east England.

Jake Kelly, the Network Rail operations director, said it had “not taken the decision lightly” to upgrade the travel advice, adding that any journey within the Met Office’s “red zone” of high heat was “going to be long, disrupted and uncomfortable”.

Most London underground and overground trains were running with severe delays, with parts of lines suspended due to heat. Transport for London advised against all non-essential travel on Monday and Tuesday.

Drivers stayed away from city centres, with congestion levels down significantly in London, Birmingham and Manchester in the morning peak from a week ago, according to data from the satnav firm TomTom.

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The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said it could take decades to upgrade existing lines to be more resilient, with the UK’s Victorian-era infrastructure “not built to withstand this type of temperature”.

He said the railways, as well as many Tarmac roads, would require a “long process of replacing it and upgrading it to withstand temperatures, either very hot or sometimes much colder than we’ve been used to, and these are the impacts of global warming”.

Asked if the transport system could cope with the extreme weather, Shapps replied: “The simple answer at the moment is no.”

July 19, 2022 at 08:45PM Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

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