Network Rail’s seasonal fleet of ice-busting trains are rolling out across the South Western Railway route to help keep passengers moving during the cold weather.

Eight multi-purpose vehicles, based at Effingham Junction in Surrey and Totton in Hampshire, will travel 67,000 miles – more than two-and-a-half times around the world – up until the end of March.

They will spray anti-icing fluid to stop ice building up on the electrical conductor rails which power trains on the network. Special heating strips have also been installed on the conductor rail in high-risk areas.

Low temperatures can also cause points, the movable sections of track trains use to move from one line to another, to freeze up, preventing trains from accessing certain routes or platforms. Network Rail will use heaters on high-risk points and have installed NASA-grade insulation to keep them in working order.

South Western Railway will also be running ‘ghost’ trains at night, to help keep the tracks clear of snow and ice, and will be spraying external passenger doors with de-icer to stop them jamming.

David Dickson, chief operating officer for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said:

“We have been working hard with South Western Railway, and our other train operators, to prepare for cold weather on this route so we can keep our passengers moving when the temperature falls.

“Our fleet of multi-purpose vehicles will travel a huge distance – more than two-and-a-half times around the world – to reduce the impact of the weather on train services from London Waterloo and down to the south coast.

 “We will also have extra teams of people on the ground to respond to incidents and carry out regular inspections of our infrastructure throughout the winter period.”

A network of monitoring stations, and detailed forecasts, will also provide real-time weather data to inform local action plans during adverse weather. The forecasts cover not just the weather but how the conditions will impact on specific railway infrastructure such as the tracks and conductor rails.

 Alan Penlington, customer experience director for South Western Railway, said:

“We do everything we can to keep our customers moving during wintry weather including: monitoring and clearing stations overnight to ensure they are ready to open safely for the start of first services; running ‘ghost’ trains at night to clear the tracks of snow or ice; covering our train horns so they don’t freeze over; and spraying passenger doors with de-icer so they don’t jam and cause delays.

“We work with Network Rail round the clock to keep our trains moving but when extreme weather does hit our network, they can be subject to speed restrictions or short notice timetable revisions.”