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Rail passengers benefit from improved winter contigency plans

Rail passengers benefit from improved winter contigency plans

South West Trains and Network Rail announced a package of winter preparation measures to ensure passengers get the best service possible in the event of adverse weather conditions.

It follows a joint review of the rail industry’s experience of the past two winters, with extra initiatives to build on and the extensive contingency plans already in place.

South West Trains is one of a number of train companies whose services are powered by an electrified third conductor rail and the initiatives include further steps by Network Rail to protect the system from the impact of snow and ice.

Improved communication, special contingency timetables and work to improve the reliability of trains in extreme conditions have also been put in place by South West Trains in response to feed back from passengers.

Some of the additional measures in place include:


Improved Network Rail track management

·      Preventative heating of the conductor rail at key strategic locations on the network to try to prevent it freezing and to enable trains to draw power.
·      A new specially-built train for use on the south-east rail network to lay heated anti-icing fluid directly on the conductor rail, and to scrape snow and ice from the tracks.

Better communication with passengers

·      Special weekday and weekend severe weather contingency timetables, which passengers can access the evening before they travel.
·      Blackberry smart phones for on-train staff to receive immediate service updates and pass up-to-date information to passengers.
·      Twitter and dedicated email alerts tailored to passengers’ individual journeys
·      New dedicated information managers in the Wessex operational control centre at London Waterloo to improve advice for customers
·      More sophisticated customer information system at London Waterloo to show trains running during disruption rather than clogging the system with those cancelled.

Enhanced fleet preparation

Improved preparation of the South West Trains fleet, including investment into heated couplers for our class 444 Desiro trains so they can “split and join”more reliably, making trains even more reliable during extreme weather conditions. This allows for trains to easily divide (10 car trains can divide into two and go in different directions).

Andy Pitt, Managing Director for South West Trains, said: “Together with Network Rail, we have used our experience and feedback from our passengers over the past two years to ensure we are better prepared than ever before to deal with severe weather.

“We operate one of the busiest and most operationally intensive commuter networks in Europe, using a ground level electrical supply system that can be very vulnerable to ice and snow. That means we will always face a huge challenge in times of severe weather disruption.Even so, every year, train, track and signalling staff keep services running and our passengers on the move in the face of some very tough conditions but we aim to offer our passengers the best possible service in the circumstances and to ensure we do more to keep passengers better informed. That is why we have learned lessons from previous winters and put this package in place.”

Richard O’Brien, Network Rail’s Route Managing Director for Wessex: “The railway plays a vital role in the everyday lives of millions of people and businesses across the country and we understand the importance of providing them with a reliable and punctual train service.

“If Britain experiences extreme Arctic conditions,there is a strong chance that all forms of transport will be affected. We have looked closely at the lessons from the last couple of years and have invested millions of pounds for the coming winter which we hope will add much needed resilience to the network and provide us with better tools to tackle difficult weather conditions.  Ultimately we want to allow passengers to make their journeys over the winter months with minimal disruption.”


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