In the Southern Region we have some of the busiest and most complex railway infrastructure in the world.
Passenger numbers have doubled in the last twenty years while train services are mostly running on the same rail space and infrastructure as before. Today’s passenger services also run more frequently and over more hours of the day, seven days a week which causes more wear and severely limits the amount of maintenance time we have available to keep things running smoothly.
Much of our network was originally built in the 1800s and some of the track layouts, the ground engineering technology, the electrical supply and the station designs are perhaps not of the standard we would do things today.
Wherever we can, we are increasing the use of smart technology to squeeze the maximum capacity out of the railway space we have. Unfortunately, the historical nature of our infrastructure does affect the reliability of the network and impacts passenger and freight services.
We have many variables to contend with across the railway network including things such as extreme weather, electrical faults and track failures through to criminal damage and trespass. Below are three common issues we face at this time of year. Check back at other times and these will switch to the issues of the season or the moment. You can find out more, in our dedicated delays explained section.
How flooding affects the railway
How we're reducing signalling failures
How we prevent tracks getting too hot
How our region prepares for summer heat
Critical rail temperature
Can the railway actually shrink in the heat? Yes it can! In the South we suffer from a hidden problem caused by Victorian clay embankments shrinking in the heat and bringing speed restrictions with them. Our geotechnical expert Derek explains why it’s a problem and what we are doing about it.
Soil moisture defecit
When it gets hotter, our railway gets longer. As track expands in the heat, we have to work hard to keep it from going out of alignment – or even buckle. Our maintenance delivery manager Helen, who looks after much of Kent’s railway, explains how we do that and about the magic 27c.
If you would like information about the real time running of the railway including today’s services and any ongoing disruption, please visit our service updates page and select your train operator.
Our region has recently faced some severe disruption to services for a variety of reasons. Here we have tried to explain as clearly as we can how these situations arose and what we have been doing to resolve them. We apologise to any passengers whose journeys have been affected by these.