Warning to commuters that 'heatwave will cause rail delays' in the North West

Passengers disembark from one of the few trains to arrive this morning at Waterloo railway station in London

Commuters in the North West are being warned the expected heatwave will lead to delayed trains.

The message from Network Rail comes as the Met Office has issued a red heat weather warning for the first time ever, with temperatures reaching 35C across the region in the week beginning Monday 18 July.

Rail passengers in the North West are being advised to plan ahead, with heatwave conditions expected to impact journeys.

Ahead of the hot weather, Network Rail say their extreme weather action teams (EWATs) are preparing to keep passengers and freight safely on the move.

Passengers are being urged to regularly check National Rail Enquiries at www.nationalrail.co.uk before they set off on their journey.

Network Rail warn trains will run slower in the heat Credit: PA Images

Phil James, Network Rail's North West Route Director, said: “Keeping passengers moving is always our top priority. But we want people to be prepared. If the soaring temperatures do lead to us having to put in place slower speeds for safety reasons, please bear with us our engineers work to fix the problem. It may mean some journeys take longer.

"For those who must travel by rail, we’d remind people to carry some water with them so they can stay hydrated, and always check before travelling so they know exactly what to expect."

Hot weather, particularly direct sunlight, can cause track temperatures to reach more than 50C.

Direct sunshine can heat up rail tracks to 50C Credit: PA Images

When steel becomes very hot it expands and rails can bend, flex and, in serious cases, buckle.

To prevent this from happening, some sections of rail are painted white to reflect the sun's rays and stop the steel from getting too hot.

Trains also run at slower speeds to put less strain on the rails.

The network of 25,000-volt overhead electric cables which power trains is also susceptible to high temperatures, say Network Rail.

They can cause the steel wires to overheat and then hang too low - getting caught on passing trains and knocking out their electricity supply.

Passengers are advised to plan their journeys during hot weather Credit: PA Images

Last year, a system of 60 solar-powered weather stations were also installed to monitor extreme conditions in real time, with the aim of keeping trains moving instead of imposing region-wide speed limits.

Right now across Network Rail’s North West and Central region, they are being used to predict where the railway teams should be deployed.

One of the solar-powered weather stations and infra-red images of track temperature

For more information on how Network Rail deals with the hot weather visit www.networkrail.co.uk/how-we-prevent-tracks-from-getting-too-hot/.