UK citizens have woken up this morning to a white duvet of snow covering everything in sight. After the weather warnings and extreme weather conditions in Europe, the UK has been expecting snow to hit. Causing major delays, health and safety problems and operation difficulties, transportation has had to stop in its tracks, delaying and disrupting the process of shipping goods. What affect do these weather conditions have on rail freight?
Apart from the obvious fact that the pitching of snow will create obstruction to the trains (thus causing delays to shift the snow), further safety issues threaten the railway in these snow-ridden, icy conditions.
According to Network Rail, the low temperature of snow and ice means that train tracks that have the function to alter, with the responsibility of interchanging major routes for trains, are frozen and unable to move. This ultimately creates problems for trains that rely on the movement of tracks to be able to access the correct and most efficient route for their destination.
Whilst many modern trains are constructed with features that will help during extreme weather conditions, such as anti-ice systems and wheel-slip protection, it does not eliminate the dangers and slipperiness of the tracks. Train tracks and the wheels that move the train itself are both made out of steel, meaning that the train can easily slip during icy or wet conditions due to the lack of friction when braking. Braking with limited control could mean that trains could miss their stop, cause collisions or even come off of the tracks completely. With this in mind, the safety of any loads, passengers or train operators means that trains must run at a slower pace than usual.
Rachel Jefferies| Editor | Freight Media