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16 Jan 2019

Ice, ice maybe? The weather outside may turn frightful, but Network Rail and Southeastern’s snow-and-ice-busting trains will work around the clock to keep you moving

Ice, ice maybe? The weather outside may turn frightful, but Network Rail and Southeastern’s snow-and-ice-busting trains will work around the clock to keep you moving: MJB 0064

  • Fleet of ice-and-snow-busting trains to travel equivalent of six times around the world to keep Kent and East Sussex railway open during freezing weather
  • Anti-icing gel, track heaters and snow ploughs all prepared for when the temperature drops


“When the mercury plummets, even the lightest shower of rain or dusting of snow can freeze on the rails, preventing trains from drawing power or being able to move with any speed. And in the worst cases, it stops them from being able to move at all.”

That’s the message from Network Rail south east’s managing director John Halsall as we launch our annual winter campaign to reduce the impact on services and challenge the long-standing misconception that ice on the tracks is a rail industry excuse.

“Snow and ice also causes points - which allow trains to move between tracks - to freeze solid or get jammed with compacted snow. When this happens, trains can’t safely run over them” added John.

“The couplers that join carriages together can also become iced up, making it difficult to join them together, or split them apart, reducing the number of trains we have available,” said Southeastern’s Managing Director David Statham.

“We know our passengers have places to go and together with Network Rail we’ve been preparing for winter for months in advance. And it’s why during the most difficult conditions, we change to a Winter Weather or Severe Winter Weather Timetable to keep trains running,” added David.

Working with train operators Southeastern and Govia Thameslink Railway, our ice-and-snow-busting trains will travel the equivalent of six times around the world in the south east, anti-icing the rails to keep passengers moving when winter weather strikes. These special trains lay anti-icing fluid to stop the electric rail freezing up and have snow ploughs when weather is severe.

In addition, Network Rail has:

  • Fitted points which are most likely to freeze with heaters and NASA-grade insulation to prevent ice forming and them sticking in place.
  • Installed conductor rail heating in areas prone to freezing.
  • This year, Network Rail is trialling a more effective anti-icer fluid on the Sheerness line, which contains more of the active ingredient that stops ice forming.
  • Adjusted its extreme weather forecasting processes to better predict ice build-up on the conductor rail.
  • Set up to receive detailed forecasts from weather experts MetDesk to help formulate local action plans during adverse weather, minimising disruption to passengers. The forecasts cover not just the weather but how the conditions will impact on specific railway infrastructure such as the tracks and conductor rails. A network of hundreds of monitoring stations also provides real-time weather data, enabling Network Rail to respond to conditions as they develop in real time.

In addition, Southeastern will:

  • Run empty ‘ghost trains’ overnight to keep tracks and overhead cables free of snow and ice.
  • Train all new Southeastern drivers at a one-day low adhesion training course, using simulators at our Learning & Development Centres in Ashford and Orpington, and continue to support with Driver Managers and Instructors during severe and adverse conditions, issuing a Seasonal Briefing booklet to all drivers containing winter driving policy and other helpful advice.
  • Ensure that its station teams are ready to go with gritting and snow-clearing.


Contact information

Southeastern Press Office

0330 095 9091

Notes to editors

  • Snow and ice treatment trains will travel 161, 296 miles (that’s 101,296 miles in Kent and 60,000 miles in Sussex)
  • Icicles on tunnels, bridges and other structures can also damage trains. In very snowy weather where snow lies deeper than 15cm, trains can’t run safely.
  • While most people think of ice and snow as traditional winter weather, changing weather patterns mean that episodes of heavy rainfall, flooding and high winds are an increasing challenge for the railway.
  • With millions of trees lining the railway, high winds can cause branches and trees to fall on to the track, causing damage and blocking the railway. High winds also mean that objects from further away can be blown onto the tracks.
  • In very wet conditions trains must brake and accelerate more slowly to keep everyone safe, adding time to journeys. Prolonged, heavy rain can also cause flooding and landslips which mean trains can’t run until lines are cleared and repaired.

Passengers can find out more at


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