As more wintry weather is forecast across West Yorkshire over the next few days, who Elsa than Network Rail’s teams are working to keep vital train services moving for passengers making essential journeys.
Standedge Tunnel, on the route between Leeds/Huddersfield and Manchester, is around three miles long so the temperature inside it stays at around eight degrees all year round.
When outside temperatures drop, icicles often appear at each end of the tunnel, and although they look nice and wintry, they can cause damage to passing trains and disruption to services. Icicles on bridges and other structures can also damage the overhead power lines.
Network Rail’s ice team put on their layers and work around the clock, not because they want to build a snowman, but to keep train services moving safely and reliably. This work is crucial during lockdown so that passengers making essential journeys can get to and from work, and so vital freight services can continue transporting food, medical supplies and fuel across the country.
Snow and ice can build up on the railway, blocking points – the equipment that allows trains to move between tracks. If ice coats the overhead power lines, it can also stop trains getting the power they need to run, causing disruption across the railway.
Network Rail operates special winter trains, complete with all the right gear to tackle whatever the bad weather brings. Although it feels like someone set off an eternal winter, hot air blowers, steam jets, anti-freeze equipment, brushes, scrapers and snowploughs clear snow and ice from the tracks to keep services moving.
When snow is forecast, Network Rail also works with train operators to fit snow plough attachments to the front of trains. Empty trains, known as ghost trains, also run overnight to keep the tracks clear.
People must continue to follow the latest Government guidance and stay at home, except for limited reasons, until the day we don’t have to keep our distance anymore and can enjoy warm hugs. Passengers who need to travel are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.
Chris Gee, Operations Director for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “Work to remove the ice from Standedge Tunnel is vital so passengers who need to make essential journeys can travel on this key route, which connects West Yorkshire and Manchester.
“Winter is always challenging and I’m proud of our teams who work tirelessly in all weathers to monitor the railway, maintain the tracks and make sure trains can run safely. They’re out day and night in freezing conditions, but the cold never bothers them anyway.
“All year round, we plan ahead for snow and ice, as well as strong wind, heavy rain and extreme heat in summer, so services can continue.”
Photo credit: Network Rail