In the coming months we will not only have to take the heat into account when sunbathing or an ice cream sundae. Rail traffic can also be significantly affected by the rising temperatures. These disruptions are due to specific technical aspects of train construction, which many travelers may not be aware of.
First, always stay up to date with the latest travel information. Use apps from the train companies and online platforms to find out if there are any changes to the timetable. Be flexible and consider alternative travel options if possible.
Make sure you have enough water with you. Dehydration can set in quickly in extreme heat, especially if you're on a stationary train or waiting at a station. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can be dehydrating, and opt for water or fruit juice instead. Wear light, breathable clothing to help your body regulate the heat, and apply sunscreen to exposed skin. Even though you are on the train, you can still get burned by the sun's rays coming through the windows.
A key component in this matter is the pantograph, an articulated arm located on the roof of the trainset. The purpose of this component is simple, but crucial: it supplies the train with electricity via the overhead wires. But what happens when the heat comes into play? Unfortunately, the answer is less simple.
When the summer sun shines in full force, the overhead lines can tend to lower and expand slightly. This makes them more fragile and increases the risk of failure when the pantograph slides past them. And this is just the beginning of the problems.
The effect of the heat is not limited to the overhead wires alone. If the outside temperature reaches 35°C or higher, the temperature of the tracks can rise significantly. This rise leads to expansion of the tracks, which in turn is counteracted by the construction under the tracks. This creates a field of tension that can lead to track deformation if the temperature rises further, which poses a serious safety risk.
So while enjoying the summer heat, it's important to consider the potential impact on your train journeys. Summer days can cause more than just sunburn; they also pose a technical challenge to our train infrastructure. While rail transport experts work on solutions, facts show that climate and technology are intertwined in complex and surprising ways.
When the temperature of the tracks rises, they can expand, which can lead to structural deformations. Such deformations can compromise the safety of the crossings and can cause problems for trains approaching the crossing. One of the main potential failures at level crossings is barrier failure. However, a technical malfunction can prevent the barriers from coming down, creating a significant risk of collision. Such failures can be caused by electronic or mechanical failures, or by external factors such as extreme weather conditions.