Winter Weather

When temperatures drop during winter, even light rain or snow can disrupt the railway and how we run our trains.

That’s because the weight and speed of our trains can compress freezing rain or snow onto the rail.

Our trains rely on good contact with rails for their power and occasionally they are unable to draw enough power to move.

Low temperatures can also cause points, the movable sections of track that trains use to move from one line to another, to freeze up, preventing trains from accessing certain routes or platforms, so Network Rail will use heaters on high-risk points and have installed NASA-grade insulation to keep them in working order.

Cold temperatures can also cause train doors to jam which can delay services.

Despite all these challenges, we do everything we can to ensure that the track and trains are working safely so we can get you moving.

How do we prepare?
With our partners at Network Rail, we:
  • Treat the track (37,724 miles of it on the South Western route alone last year) with anti-icing fluid
  • Patrol the tracks - and stations - day and night to clear snow and ice
  • Run ‘ghost’ trains at night to help keep the tracks clear of snow and ice
  • Cover our train horns with protective socks so they don’t freeze over
  • Spray our external passenger doors with a de-icer fluid so they don’t jam
  • Heat the conductor rail, which carries electricity, in key areas to prevent ice forming on it
  • Deploy special cold-weather vehicles fitted with snow ploughs, hot-air blowers, steam jets, brushes, scrapers and heated de-icers to run on the track
  • Cut back overhanging trees throughout the year in case they become too heavy when snow falls
  • Attach heaters and NASA-grade insulation to points to prevent ice forming, and use a thermal-imaging helicopter to identify points heaters that aren’t working effectively
  • Implement temporary speed restrictions for our trains when conditions are extreme to ensure passenger safety
In severe weather, we may implement special winter timetables to keep you on the move.