Strikes and damaged lines bring more misery for train passengers

Public warned to check travel information before leaving home as disruption from heatwave continues

Rail travellers face continued disruption on Sunday after record temperatures, thunderstorms and heavy rainfall played havoc with the transport network.

A spokesman for East Midlands Trains told people to expect a significantly reduced service in and out of London at the weekend after an overhead line was damaged. Meanwhile, the number of flights arriving at airports continued to be restricted.

Rail passengers were told to check before embarking on their journeys and were advised not to travel on the London St Pancras to Nottingham-Sheffield route. Replacement coaches and revised timetables were in place due to industrial action taken by conductors from the RMT union over pay and working conditions.

East Midlands Trains apologised to passengers and advised that the continuing disruption to services on the Midland mainline route to London would continue during the weekend.

“We’re sorry to everybody who has experienced disrupted journeys over the past two days,” Jake Kelly, the company’s managing director, said. “We do have a significantly reduced timetable in place on our London route over the weekend and our advice for customers is to avoid travelling on this route wherever possible and make alternative arrangements.”

After the high temperatures of last week, a yellow weather warning for rain covering vast areas of Scotland and England, with the exception of the south-west region, has been issued until Sunday afternoon.

Problems were not confined to the rail network. People found themselves sleeping on the floor around Heathrow airport on Friday night after a technical problem was identified at Swanwick air traffic control centre shortly after noon that day, which had restricted the rate of arrivals. A Heathrow spokesman said the technical issue, which caused a number of cancellations, had since been resolved. “We apologise to passengers for any disruption that this caused.”

Gatwick said that, while it aimed to run a normal schedule, passengers were advised to check with their airlines for the latest information “due to ongoing adverse weather across Europe”.

The disruption comes after the UK recorded maximum temperatures of 38.1C (100.6F) on Thursday – the second hottest day on record – while record highs were experienced in a number of western European countries. The Met Office is checking whether the 38.5C all-time record from 2003 has been surpassed, after a provisional recording of 38.7C at Cambridge Botanic Garden, before the weather turned to downpours.

The heatwave has raised questions about the ability of Britain’s infrastructure to cope with extreme temperatures.

Buckling railway tracks and failing train air conditioning condemned commuters to stifling journeys into work. When they got there, many people were confronted with struggling air conditioning, while hospital wards were “totally unbearable” according to Nick Scriven, a public health expert.


Mattha Busby

The GuardianTramp

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