As the west of England starts to brace itself for snowy wintery weather next week, Network Rail’s winter preparedness plan is primed and ready to be rolled out to help keep passengers moving.

Working closely with the train operating companies, and Network Rail’s weather forecasting partners at MetDesk, the winter preparedness plan includes a number of measures:

  • Fitting over 2000 sets of covers to points – the movable sections of track trains use to move from one line to another – to keep out snow and ice and help stop the points freezing
  • Installing ‘Points heaters’ at 340 crucial sites to heat the surrounding track to prevent points from freezing and prevent snow drifts from forming
  • Using ‘Kilfrost’ de-icer to keep both the platforms and track safe and reliable for travellers during this time
  • Frontline staff patrolling the tracks day and night clearing snow and ice from junctions and tunnels
  • Working with GWR colleagues to keep stations open, staff ready to carry out tasks such as clearing snow from platforms and pedestrian areas
  • A dedicated team based within the route control centre monitoring over 1400 mechanisms and all of our winter infrastructure to identify and fix any potential faults
  • Rail mounted snow ploughs – which can be attached to the front of trains – ready to clear snowdrifts from the line to keep lines open
  • GWR ready with ‘ghost trains’ – empty trains that can run overnight to help keep tracks clear of ice and snow

Andy Giles, managing director at MetDesk explains: “We have developed a highly sophisticated weather system in partnership with Network Rail. This delivers the very latest weather forecast information and analytical tools to enable Network Rail to efficiently manage and mitigate the impacts of adverse weather. This service is supported by our all-hours team of expert meteorologists who monitor a huge array of observational and weather model information to provide timely updates of the very latest weather condition across the network.”

The winter plan has been tweaked to take into account the lessons learned from the impact of snow and ice in recent years across the route. The plan also has to balance being prepared for all outcomes with the inevitable need to make sure public money is spent appropriately and wisely on appropriate preparatory measures.

Tim Ball, chief operating officer for Network Rail’s Western route said: “We have been working hard with our train operators to prepare for snow on the Great Western Main Line so that we keep our passengers moving when the flakes fall.

“Our improved plans make use of a wide variety of equipment and lessons learned from previous winters to reduce the impact of the weather on train services from London Paddington to Penzance, and north to Worcester.

“We will also have extra teams of our people on the ground to respond to incidents and carry out regular inspections of our infrastructure throughout the winter period, but as everyone knows, snow can be unpredictable and we urge passengers to check before they travel if we have snow and take care when traveling to and from stations.”

Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry said: “We know how important it is for our customers to complete their journeys whatever the weather. In the same way as everyone will be doing with their cars, we’ve checked all the systems on the trains and topped up with de-icer, and are working closely with Network Rail and GWR to ensure we can keep our services running.”

To find out more about how the rail industry prepares for cold weather, visit the Network Rail website here