There’s been little opportunity to bask in the perpetual sunshine for Network Rail’s extreme weather action teams, who have been deployed across the network to keep passengers moving during the heatwave.
Photos have been emerging of sections of distorted track where the steel rail has expanded in the high heat and buckled.
Network Rail Scotland tweeted an image from a thermal imaging camera in Mauchline on 28 June – the hottest day ever recorded in Scotland. The air temperature was 33.2 degrees Celsius and the rail was recorded at 54.2 degrees Celsius!
A public information campaign has sought to explain to passengers the steps that Network Rail takes to avoid disruption during hot weather. These include painting sections of the rail white to reflect some of the heat and installing sensors to provide real-time information about the temperature of the track.
Despite their best efforts, speed restrictions have had to be imposed in many areas where the track is at risk of buckling and there was disruption on routes where buckling had occurred. Cue the familiar ‘rail chaos’ reports and headlines.
The reality is that the industry takes all the necessary steps to mitigate this disruption, but extreme weather will always provide a stern test. Either way, coupled with the ongoing timetabling issues and the handover of Virgin East Coast to LNER at the end of June, there has been plenty of ammunition for critics to fire off.
But the railway should be inspired by the performance of the England football team (note this issue went to print before the Sweden quarter final). There has been so little positivity around the English national team for a decade or so because of a string of dejecting results at major tournaments. At best they were called disappointing, at worst a national embarrassment. But how quickly things can change. Suddenly fans are back singing in the streets and watching in their tens of millions.
Unfortunately the railway has to work much harder to impress passengers. No one is cheering on the platform because their train has finally arrived on time. Good performance is expected not a pleasant surprise.
While no one is holding an open top bus parade for the best performing train operators, it shouldn’t dissuade us from striving to be better. Certainly, from the nominations we see submitted for our RailStaff Awards, our colleagues aren’t motivated by thanks and plaudits, rather a desire to just do things properly.
This month we have some fantastic examples of the industry going above its basic duties. Fundraisers scaling the three highest peaks in Britain for charity, heroic BTP officers awarded for their bravery and volunteers taking the time to support members of staff where they can following traumatic incidents.
Whoever lifts the World Cup on 15 July will return home to a hero’s welcome, but celebrities and sports stars already receive their fair share of adulation. Here at RailStaff, we’ll continue honouring our everyday heroes.