HEAVY SNOW across the UK, followed closely by Storm Emma, caused significant disruption across the rail network for a week from 26 February 2018.
The severe weather resulted in closures to a number of routes, including both the East and West Coast main lines across the border from England to Scotland, as well as closure of the sea wall at Dawlish in Devon following storm damage. Many routes across the country were closed for several days in succession, including branch lines in East Anglia, a number of branch lines in Cornwall, the East Midlands Trains route to Skegness and several routes in Scotland, while significant snowfall caused intermittent closure of key main lines, such as CrossCountry’s Birmingham to Bristol route.
The Met Office issued a red weather warning for large parts of Scotland on 28 February. The West Coast main line north of Carlisle was shut during that afternoon, and no train services operated on the East Coast main line between Newcastle and Edinburgh from 1 March. ScotRail completely withdrew its services for a short period of time while it worked to clear lines, progressively reintroducing selected services as it was able to. With no cross-border route available, Caledonian Sleeper was forced to cancel all its services for three successive nights. The first train ran again on the East Coast main line on the afternoon of 3 March, and on the West Coast the following day.
Meanwhile, in the south west the impact of Storm Emma caused damage to the sea wall between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren on the night of 1 March, closing the railway throughout the following day. In Dawlish the metal railings between the railway and the footpath were uprooted and deposited on the track and the station had several feet of water between the platforms. Just off the Dawlish Warren end of the platform the roof of the former lifeboat house between the railway and the sea became damaged and the slates and roof supports were blown onto the track. Network Rail said there was no structural damage to the sea wall itself, which was strengthened in 2014, but ballast was washed across the track and Dawlish station suffered minor damage. Following repairs, services resumed on 3 March.
The severe weather also caused a number of significant disruptions to individual trains. Of particular note were passengers on South Western Railway services left stranded in the New Forest overnight on 1 March, with a rescue eventually performed the following morning by a CrossCountry Voyager unit. On the evening of 2 March an incident on a Southeastern service at Lewisham saw passengers stranded on trains for up to five hours, with some forcing open the doors of trains and walking along the track against the operator’s advice, necessitating the isolation of power to the third rail. The operator has subsequently said it will offer compensation to those affected and will appoint an independent investigator to carry out a review of events, and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has said it will also conduct an investigation.
Defective points at Wokingham, on the North Downs line, led to the suspension of through Great Western Railway services between Reading and Gatwick Airport for over a week while the points were replaced; other services through the area were able to continue with the points locked in a set position.