How weather impacts on rail travel

How rail operators plan ahead for bad weather

Behind the scenes, rail operators have emergency plans in place to keep that disruption to a minimum. Sometimes trains will be running to a different timetable or under speed restrictions; the aim is to get as many people as possible safely to their destination, even if the journey takes longer than normal.

Contact details for many travel operators can be found on our useful contacts page.

How train operators deal with severe weather

Heated and insulated points, snow clearing trains and crews with chainsaws to remove fallen trees all play a part in keeping the UK's trains moving. You can read more about the types weather that cause the worst delays, and what Network Rail do to minimise these impacts on the Network Rail website.

Recent rail disruption incidents

Despite that, sometimes the weather can be so bad that disruption is inevitable. In recent years, we've seen storms destroy parts of the railway line at Dawlish in Devon, high winds bringing down overhead lines in the northwest of England stopping electrically powered trains, snow blocking tracks in Scotland and flooding in parts of the West Country.

What you can do if you're planning to travel by train

In severe weather, you can play a part in helping the people that are trying to get things back to normal as quickly as possible:

  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast; would travelling earlier or later make a difference? If there's severe weather happening, national rail enquiries and the train operating companies will issue regular travel updates on their websites.
  • In times of severe disruption, the train companies often relax ticket restrictions but that might mean very busy trains and longer journey times. It's not an option for everybody, but when severe weather is forecast you might want to consider a ticket that allows even greater travel flexibility.
  • Finally, it's easy to forget when you're stuck somewhere you don't want to be, that the disruption is caused by nature, and not the people doing their best to help you.