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Responding to weather impacts on the railway

How we evaluate and respond to the day-to-day challenges of weather

From keeping on top of daily wear and tear to putting right the more extreme damage caused by floods and landslips, weather is a constant source of challenge.

Where possible, we use the latest technology (such as visual and thermal imaging from our helicopter and drones) to monitor when and where weather is likely to cause these kinds of problems so we can either prevent them or respond quickly to restore normal, safe service.

We also have specialist machines which help our engineers keep the railway running whatever the weather. We work year-round to prepare for changing seasons and to make sure that we learn from previous incidents to reduce the impact in the future.

Find out about the weather challenges we face on our Delays Explained pages

Train on track covered in snow

We have a bespoke weather forecasting service to allow us to plan for incidents that could affect rail travel. Before 03:00 every day, we receive detailed weather forecasts and alerts for routes and local areas. Our route operations teams can plan the response needed over and above our planned seasonal preparation based on the following statuses:

  • Normal conditions
  • Be aware
  • Challenging weather
  • Extreme weather, when a reduced timetable and redeployment of resources may be needed
  • Extreme weather is a problem across two or more of our 14 routes

Improving our forecasting

We’re developing ways to achieve a more detailed forecast of rainfall across eight square kilometres, rather than the current 16, and improving our radar so that it can predict the movement of rain or thunderstorms six hours into the future, as opposed to the three hours it can predict now.

How we learn from past experience 

Analysing any failures of assets on the railway in conjunction with weather data from the same period in previous years helps us understand how different weather scenarios can be predicted, and prepared for.

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