Waterloo meets its Waterloo?

16 July 2013

Hot rails – it’s that time of year again. A problem that occurs on all railways during hotter weather, but one that is as baffling to passengers as ‘leaves-on-the-line’ in the autumn or the ‘wrong kind of snow’ in the winter. How can a very heavy piece of metal suffer so badly from heat? All to do with the stressing of the rails if you ask, but it’s still hard for passengers to get their heads around.

The problem isn’t helped where you have older track and ballast. Rails put down 30 years ago are not so resilient and require a lot more attention. This is difficult to do as more and more trains run over the track.

Nowhere are these problems clearer than at Waterloo and further afield on the South West Trains network. Difficult decisions on large-scale track replacements have been postponed for years for all sorts of reasons, not least because of the disruption this would cause.

More passengers are travelling on more trains on a network which is getting harder and harder to get access to. If nothing radical is done performance will slowly decline and individual incidents will continue to cause disproportionate problems. It is extraordinary that such an important and lucrative slice of the rail network has been allowed to get into an extraordinary fragile state.

The potential coming into service of the new platforms at Waterloo International offers some hope. New trains might be ordered soon. So the pain of significant track work could be eased by the promise of a brighter, more reliable future. No one wants to be where we are today, but has the time come to grasp an issue that has sat in the ‘difficult’ in tray for too long?

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