Heatwave rail disruption and NHS ‘surge’ expected as UK braces for up to 40C temperatures

Cancellations and delays expected as intense heat warps infrastructure

Alastair Jamieson
Thursday 14 July 2022 23:18 BST
Deer cools down in heatwave by bounding through Derbyshire river

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Train passengers are being warned of major disruption from extreme heat on rail lines as ministers said the NHS was braced for a “surge” in demand.

Avanti West Coast warned passengers who wish to use services between London Euston and Scotland to plan ahead due to the impact of the weather on infrastructure.

The company said services on Saturday and Sunday could be cancelled at short notice.

It also warned that services on Monday July 18 and Tuesday July 19 will be subject to amended timetables and extended journey times.

An emergency Cobra meeting was taking place on Thursday night to discuss how to tackle the heatwave gripping the UK.

The Met Office has predicted record-breaking temperatures early next week, as high as 35C in some parts of the UK, with warnings it could put lives at risk.

The forecaster has issued a three-day amber alert for “extreme heat” from Sunday, and there are concerns the heatwave could push the NHS to “tipping point”.

Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse urged the public to look out for people who are particularly vulnerable in the heat.

“The key thing we can do is prepare the government services for what may be a surge in demand – not least the health service and elsewhere – but also critically communicate that the first line of defence is actually individual behavioural change,” he said.

“People need to take care, do all the stuff they would do when it is very hot – wear a hat, drink water – but critically also (with) the most vulnerable groups – the elderly, those with cardiovascular problems and the very young – that people look out for them and take care.

“We are asking people if they have an elderly neighbour, particularly if they live alone, it would be a neighbourly thing to check up on them and make sure they are looking after themselves and have access to water.

“The current forecast is that we will be in the mid to high-30s but there is a smaller possibility that we could exceed that and possibly hit 40 which would be an all-time record.”

Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to hover around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature, according to Network Rail.

With temperatures as high as 37C (99F) expected in London early next week, the hot weather – particularly direct sunlight – could cause track temperatures to reach up to 50C.

In such conditions, rails can bend, flex and, in some cases, buckle from the heat.

Trains, therefore, run at slower speeds in extremely hot weather to put less strain on the rails.

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