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Network Rail

Rail passengers in Wales warned to only travel if necessary ahead of soaring temperatures

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People planning on travelling by train on Monday and Tuesday this week are being told to only travel if necessary due to record breaking temperatures.

The warning from Network Rail and Transport for Wales (TfW) comes as the Met Office issued a rare amber warning for extreme heat with temperatures expected to reach the high thirties in some parts of Wales on Monday and Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, a red warning – meaning a risk to life – is in place for large parts of England, including the West Midlands and North West England.

The currently forecasted temperatures will see the introduction of speed restrictions on railway lines across the country to ensure the safe running of trains, which means journeys will take longer.

TfW has announced that services on routes within the areas covered by the red weather warning will be cancelled. These include travel between Shrewsbury and Birmingham, Chester and Liverpool, Chester and Manchester, Chester and Crewe, Crewe and Manchester and on the Conwy Valley Line.

Network Rail say their extreme weather action teams will be using track-side probes and mini weather stations installed around the network to monitor conditions and working closely with weather specialists to adapt plans. 

Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to be around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature. When steel becomes very hot it expands and rails can bend, flex and, in serious cases, buckle.  

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The overhead electric lines which power trains in some parts of the country are also susceptible to faults in extreme temperatures when the steel wires overheat, which can cause them to hang too low and increase the risk of getting caught on passing trains and knocking out the electricity supply.

TfW say they’re working to provide additional capacity on key services to avoid overcrowding, but services are expected to be very busy – particularly to coastal destinations such as the North Wales coast resorts, West Wales and Barry Island, along the Heart of Wales Line due to the Royal Welsh Show, and in South Wales due to university graduations in Cardiff and Swansea – and conditions onboard are likely to be very uncomfortable in the extreme weather.

They are also advising passengers to check before travelling in case of further changes to the timetable or on-the-day disruption. Passengers should not travel if they feel unwell, and should stay hydrated by taking a bottle of water while travelling. Free water refill points are available at Llandudno, Machynlleth and Cardiff Central stations

Nick Millington, acting route director at Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “Rail passengers in Wales should only travel if necessary on Monday and Tuesday as there may be delays and cancellations to train services due to the extreme heat we’re expecting.

“The wellbeing of our passengers is our first priority so we’re asking everyone who decides to travel to take time to prepare before leaving the house. Remember to bring a water bottle with you, along with whatever else you need to keep yourself well in the heat.

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“Journeys will take significantly longer and delays are likely as speed restrictions are introduced to keep passengers and railway staff safe, so make sure to allow considerably more time to complete your journey and be prepared for very hot conditions.

“We’re working closely with MetDesk to monitor forecasts and adapt our plans, and with our train operator colleagues to make sure we can get passengers who need to travel to their destinations safely.”

Colin Lea, TfW’s Planning and Performance Director, said: “The extreme weather that we are set to see on 18 and 19 July is likely to pose a risk of serious illness or danger to life, particularly in the West Midlands and North West England where temperatures will be at their highest.

“We strongly advise customers to carefully consider whether their journey is necessary, check before travelling in case of changes to services, and allow more time for any journeys they need to make.”

(Lead image: Network Rail)

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Great Western Railway

Severn Rail Tunnel to close for engineering works

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Trains that run through the Severn Tunnel between Bristol and South Wales will be affected as part of an ongoing programme of rail improvement work this July.

Network Rail say they will carry out essential track maintenance as well as testing the electrical power supply in the tunnel in July.

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The work will see more than two miles of track, sleepers and ballast (the stones on the railway) replaced to ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of the railway.

The new track will also enable the removal of a temporary 50mph speed restriction through the tunnel, improving passenger’s journeys and reducing the risk of infrastructure faults.

The track work will affect Great Western Railway services from Friday 1 to Sunday 10 July.

David Bailey, GWR’s customer service manager for South Wales, said: “The work inside the Severn Tunnel will support our train service in Wales, especially those trains running under electric power serving Cardiff Central and Newport.

“We will divert long-distance trains via an alternative route and provide road transport between Newport and Bristol Parkway to ensure customers can complete their journeys.”

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Trains between London and South Wales will use an alternative route between Swindon and Newport, stopping at Gloucester instead of Bristol Parkway.

A limited train service will still run between London Paddington and Bristol Parkway on weekdays only, otherwise they will travel via Bristol Temple Meads instead.

Buses will replace trains between Bristol Parkway and Newport, with customers advised to plan their journey beforehand.

In addition, buses will also replace trains at Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road for Filton Abbey Wood or Bristol Parkway on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July.

Follow-up engineering work is planned that will affect trains between Bristol and South Wales on Sunday 17 July and again on Sunday 14 August (until midday).

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Mark Dix, Project Manager at Network Rail, said: “The Severn Tunnel is a vital rail link for passengers travelling between Wales and England, so it is extremely important that we invest in its future.

“Once this work is finished, passengers travelling via Bristol Parkway will experience fewer delays with much more reliable journeys.

“I appreciate that this work is going to cause some disruption for passengers, so I would like to thank them in advance for their patience.”

(Lead image: Network Rail / GWR)

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Network Rail

Passengers told not to travel by rail on strike days and to expect further disruption

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Transport for Wales (TfW) is advising customers not to travel by train on 21, 23 and 25 June, with the majority of their rail services suspended as a result of industrial action resulting from the dispute between rail union RMT and Network Rail.

Due to the wider disruption caused, they’re also advising customers to only travel by rail if essential for 20, 22, 24 and 26 June.

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TfW is not in dispute with RMT, but the industrial action means they are unable to operate rail services on Network Rail infrastructure.

The only services running on 21 and 23 June will be a reduced service between Radyr and Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil, with replacement bus services between Radyr and Cardiff Central.

On 25 June, this will be reduced further to services between Radyr and Treherbert, Aberdare and Pontypridd, with replacement buses in operation between Radyr and Cardiff Central, and between Pontypridd and Merthyr Tydfil due to the ongoing transformation work for the South Wales Metro.

All other services will be suspended, as signalling and other infrastructure work is managed by Network Rail, who are impacted by the industrial action.

There is also expected to be disruption on the days prior and after the industrial action, with early morning services in particular likely to be affected. Trains are also expected to be extremely busy throughout the entire week.

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As a result, TfW is advising that customers only make essential journeys by train on 20, 22, 24 and 26 June, and not to travel at all by train on 21, 23 and 25 June.

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Customers with existing non-season tickets valid for travel from Tuesday 21 June to Saturday 25 June can use those tickets anytime between Monday 20 June and Monday 27 June. Alternatively, TfW say customers can claim a full refund, with no admin fee charged. Season ticket holders can apply for compensation via Delay Repay.

In the meantime, TfW has suspended sales of Advance tickets for the first three strike dates in order to minimise the number of people disrupted. Customers are advised to continue to check the TfW or Traveline websites, and those of other operators, for updates.

Rail passengers (Image: Network Rail)

Steve Montgomery, Chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes will affect the millions of people who use the train each day, including key workers, students with exams, those who cannot work from home, holidaymakers and those attending important business and leisure events.

“Working with Network Rail, our plan is to keep as many services running as possible, but significant disruption will be inevitable and some parts of the network will not have a service, so passengers should plan their journeys carefully and check their train times.

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“Taxpayers have provided the equivalent of about £600 per household since covid and passenger numbers are still only at around 75% of pre pandemic levels. We need to bring rail up to date so that we attract more people back and take no more than our fair share from the public purse.

“We ask the RMT’s leadership to call off these damaging strikes and continue talks to reach a deal that is fair to staff and taxpayers, and which secures a bright, long-term future of our railways.”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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British Transport Police

Over two years in jail for man who shut down the South Wales mainline and caused £50K worth of disruption

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A man who significantly damaged railway equipment at Bridgend, causing the South Wales mainline to shut down, has been jailed following a British Transport Police investigation.

Stephen Mulcahy, 42, and of Erw Hir, Bridgend, was found guilty of two counts of burglary, damage to property, and going equipped for theft. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison at Swansea Crown Court on 11 March.

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The court heard how at just after midnight on Friday 16 April 2021, Mulcahy arrived at Bridgend railway station with his dog and called the railway switchboard to enquire about train times.

A little while later, CCTV shows Mulcahy jumping from the platform onto the tracks with his dog and walking towards a railway compound.

At around 5am, Network Rail reported a power outage on the railway and suspicions grew as workers noticed a key was missing and a door to the generator building was left open.

Officers arrived on scene and found a rucksack on the platform containing rubber gloves and a set of bolt croppers.

Upon searching the compound, officers caught Mulcahy coming out of a building carrying metal signs. He claimed he was in the building looking for his dog, who had come off the lead, and asked officers if he could keep the signs which he had found.

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He was arrested, and upon search, officers found a pair of scissors and set of keys for the generator building in his pocket.

Significant damage had been caused in the building, including several cables pulled from their termination points, which triggered the loss of power to the railway signalling.

The damage to railway equipment affected 33 trains, delayed the network for a total of 1,209 minutes and cost the railway £53,561 in disruption. Over £5,000 in damage repairs was also caused to the compound.

The history of the power supply indicated the damage to the cabling occurred at approximately 4am and CCTV and forensics placed Mulcahy at the scene.

Sign stolen by Mulcahy (Image: BTP)
Bolt cutters Mulcahy had been carrying (Image: BTP)
Damage caused to the cabling system (Image: BTP)

BTP Detective Constable Dan Murdoch said: “This was a determined act which cost the railway thousands of pounds and caused significant disruption to passengers, including to key workers who may have relied on public transport in the middle of the pandemic.

“These sentences demonstrate just how seriously the courts take such incidents, and we hope this will give Mulcahy time to reflect on his actions and stop him from committing similar offences in the future.

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“We are committed to tackling all forms of criminal damage and work closely with Network Rail and other industry partners to make the railway a difficult place for these criminals to operate.”

Bill Kelly, Wales & Borders route director at Network Rail said: “This was a mindless and incomprehensible act of vandalism that had very serious consequences for the railway in South Wales and beyond – affecting our passengers and freight customers and wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money.

“The sentence handed down sends a powerful signal: these crimes won’t go unpunished, and I’d like to pay tribute to the Network Rail colleagues involved and the British Transport Police. This conviction demonstrates the strength of our partnership across Wales and Borders as we work together to stamp out crime on the rail network.”

(Lead image: South Wales Police)

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