Thousands of passengers left stranded as rail networks still affected by heatwave

Passengers stuck at London Euston on Wednesday. Credit: PA

Travellers have been left stranded after a number of train services were axed due to extreme heat.

Those trying to travel by rail faced chaos at stations on Wednesday morning after temperatures hit 40C on Tuesday, a new UK record, causing damage to overhead wires, tracks and signalling systems.

All lines between Lancaster and Carlisle and lines in the Birmingham New Street area are not expected to reopen until Wednesday afternoon due to severe damage to overhead cables.

While a large number of trains between London Euston and Scotland were dropped.

And disruption is likely to continue as Network Rail and other providers struggle to mitigate the pressure piled on to services by the heat.

National Rail told customers to check before setting off on their journeys and to only travel if absolutely necessary.

It said on its website: “A huge amount of work has been completed overnight to fix problems with the track and overhead wires caused by the heat yesterday.

“Network Rail teams are continuing to work tirelessly to make the repairs so we can get services back up and running for passengers but there is still disruption to services throughout the day. So, for anyone travelling today, please take time to check before you travel.

”More than two dozen services departing from London King’s Cross and Euston were cancelled or delayed."

What services are currently disrupted?

Avanti West Coast

  • London Euston - Due to further repairs needed overnight services to / from London Euston will start / terminate at Watford Junction / Milton Keynes Central from 22:00. 

  • Trains to and from London Euston may still be cancelled, delayed or revised.

    Customers may London Overground between London Euston and Watford Junction. 

  • Birmingham New Street


  • CrossCountry services are currently facing significant disruption from Birmingham New Street.

East Midlands Rail

  • The line has re-opened with delays and alterations between London St Pancras and Kettering on the Intercity route.

  • The line remains closed on the Connect route between Corby and London St Pancras International for the remainder of the day.

Great Northern and Thameslink

  • Warned passnegers not to travel as routes from several station face significant disruption.

  • Including, London St Pancras International to Bedford

  • London Kings Cross to Cambridge / Ely / Kings Lynn (shuttle trains will run on the Kings Lynn route)

  • London Kings Cross to Peterborough

  • Dartford to Rainham

  • St Albans City to Sutton/Wimbledon

  • London Blackfriars to Sevenoaks

  • Welwyn Garden City/Stevenage/Hertford North to Moorgate

LNER and Lumo

LNER recommended that all of it's customers avoided Kings Cross as services faced cancellation or severe disruption.

London Northwestern Rail

  • London Euston - No trains are able to depart from or arrive at London Euston after around 22:00 this evening.

  • Damage to the overhead electric wires between London Euston and Watford Junction means some lines are blocked. Trains running between these stations may be cancelled or revised. 

  • Birmingham New Street

  • Watford Junction - St Albans Abbey -  fault with the signalling system between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey means no trains are currently able to run.

Transpennine Express

  • Overhead wire damage between Preston and Carlisle is causing delays to trains through these stations.

Why were so many trains cancelled?

One of the reasons that so many services had to be dropped after extreme heats is due to how rail networks are stress tested.

Lines have to be prepared for UK temperatures throughout the year, thus leaving them vulnerable to the record breaking heats that have hit the country this week.

Tracks are prepared for temperatures of around 27C as they need to function throughout the colder weather as well.

If rails were prepared for exceptionally hot weather, they wouldn’t be safe in the winter. And, as a result of the mercury hitting 40C in some parts of the country, rail networks grew by around 9km due to rails expanding in the sun.

What have rail bosses said?

The East Coast Main Line, the main rail artery connecting London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle, was damaged on Tuesday after a fire spread on to the track near Sandy in Bedfordshire.

The route between London King’s Cross and Peterborough was closed until the early afternoon, with a reduced service running later in the day.

Passenger at London Kings Cross. Credit: PA

Avanti West Coast said services from London Euston were cancelled due to ongoing repair work following damage caused by fires in the Hatch End area of north-west London on Tuesday.

A spokesman said: “Train services are severely disrupted across our network as a result of damage to the overhead wires at multiple locations due to yesterday’s extreme heat. Network Rail is still at the sites carrying out repairs.

“Customers should make sure they check their journey before leaving for the station, and train tickets for yesterday and today will be valid for travel tomorrow. We’re sorry for the inconvenience this will cause.

”Network Rail said passenger numbers on Tuesday were around 40% lower than the same day last week.

Overhead electric wires were down in Rugby, Birmingham and Carlisle, leading to a number of trains being trapped and emergency evacuations of passengers.

Network Rail Wales apologised for having to close the Cambrian Line between Dovey Junction and Aberystwyth “due to extreme heat”.