Severe weather contingency from train operators

Following two severe winters, South West Trains and Network Rail have announced additional measures they are putting in place this year to improve the service they provide commuters.

In a letter to Steve Brine, Andy Pitt, Managing Director of South West Trains, and Richard O'Brien, Managing Director (Wessex) of Network Rail said: "We have carried out a comprehensive review and further improved our planning based on lessons learned from last year. Delivering an intensive commuter network which is already operating at full capacity is always going to be a very big challenge in severe weather, particularly as we are relying on ground level third rail electrical supply to out trains which is very vulnerable to snow and ice.

"However, South West Trains and Network Rail are determined to continue working closely together to try and provide the best possible service to our passengers in the circumstances and to communicate information to passengers as effectively as possible."

The new measures include preventative heating of the conductor rail at key locations, and a new specially-built train to lay heated anti-icing fluid directly on the conductor rail, and to scrape snow and ice from the tracks.

They stated that a greater variety of contingency timetables had been developed, based on the experience from last year, which will be available to passengers the evening before implementation.

Investment into heated couplers for class 444 Desiro trains has taken place, which will allow them to 'split and join' more reliably and all trains to divide more easily.

They have also taken on new dedicated information managers, and promise to improve passenger communication by using Blackberry smartphones, Twitter and a more sophisticated customer information system at London Waterloo.

Steve Brine said: "I welcome the assurances given by Mr Pitt and Mr O'Brien, and am glad that work has been put in to learn lessons from the experiences of last year. Clearly, sometimes the weather is just so bad that delays are inevitable, but I hope this news leads to an easier commute over the winter for the thousands of people across Winchester & Chandler's Ford who also travel up to London to work."