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How does hot weather affect the railway?

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Image of a train travelling at speed in the sunshine

Summer. Over half of the people of Britain’s favourite season. Let’s admit it, we’ve all enjoyed the unexpected heat that this summer has brought us in the last few weeks. But have you ever thought about the effect that the hot weather has on the railway?

The summer weather can be as challenging as winter on the railway. It can affect the rails, overhead power lines and the ground that the track sits on.

Overhead power lines can expand and sag due to the heat. To help prevent this, the height and tensions of the lines are adjusted, and older overhead lines are replaced with newer, modern ones.

Hot temperatures and periods without rain can dry out the ground underneath the tracks, which can result in the rails being unstable. Speed restrictions are put in place to minimise the risk of incidents.

The track absorbs heat easily and can get up to 20 degrees hotter than the air temperature! When the steel gets hot, it expands, causing the rails to buckle and break. Network Rail work hard to minimise damage by leaving gaps between shorter sections of track so there is space for them to expand, putting speed restrictions in place during the hottest point of the day, and painting ‘hot spots’ of the track white to reduce the heat absorbed.

Read the article by Network Rail below to learn more about how they work hard to keep the railway moving in the summer season:

As the staff of Network Rail are working hard to keep Britain’s railway moving, the team here at KITE Projects are playing our part by providing a safe access system to enable staff to monitor track conditions. Thanks to all our rail maintenance staff who still regularly ‘walk the track’ to check its condition.

KITE Projects are committed to bringing safety to keep the network moving, we are doing this by collaborative, sustainable engineering that looks well into the future and will support Network Rail for decades to come.

Check out our new website here;


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