The wrong kind of Sun

Meltdown: Chaos as trains are cancelled because rails are TOO HOT

50 thoughts on “The wrong kind of Sun”

  1. As I drove down past Cordoba,last Wednesday, the car’s outside temperature indicator was showing 42 deg. It was, I must say, a trifle mild. But the roads were not melting & as far as I’m aware, the trains continued to run untroubled.
    Maybe we get the right sort of sun, down here.

  2. We had a train derailed in Taiwan a couple of weeks ago due to the heat causing deformation in the rails.

  3. I believe that railway (and other) systems are set up to deal with normal local temperatures. In southern Spain I would anticipate problems with sub zero temperatures but not with heat. In Norway vice versa. Systems are set up to deal with a range of temperatures and making the British system deal with 30° plus would leave it vulnerable to 0°.

  4. Although, Pat ant Tim N, as a regular user of rail in England, it doesn’t look like they set it up well for anything around zero either.

    Be it frost, sun or rain, they’ll claim it’s some kind of weather they can’t handle and will put their feet up for the day.

    They often make announcements blaming “extreme weather”.

    In south-east England, of all places.

  5. Some parts of France have sub-zero temperatures in winter and consistent 30+ temperatures in high summer. That’s a continental climate. Yet somehow they seem able to cope.

    Britain has a mild range of annual temperatures in comparison so this should be one of the rail problems we shouldn’t have to deal with. But no, the useless cunts in charge of our rail network have found a way.

  6. “They often make announcements blaming “extreme weather”.”

    I heard one at my station a few weeks ago, warning of high temperatures and “make sure you carry a bottle of water”. The forecast maximum for that day was 19 degrees. It would have made more sense to advise carrying a jumper for later.

  7. Yes, the same as the argument about snow ploughs; is it worth all the investment to have them sitting idly for 363 days of the year, or is it better to just give up and shut down the country for those two days?

    But it’s better as a proper decision; the problem with the current mess is that we try to carry on as normal without the procedures to allow things to do so.

  8. @ Richard
    Indeed, though it’s not the “idle for 363 days of the year” issue – often it’s the idle for 365 days of the year for a couple of years. It can be hard to justify the expenditure (and a proper plough/gritter setup is not cheap) for something that’s going to be rarely used.
    But IMO the bigger problem is the shear number of people who take the attitude that “it’s ‘s responsibility to keep the roads clear of snow under all conditions” and just set out with no planning, no thought, no preparation, and then get stuck and block the roads preventing those who do have a clue from getting anywhere. In particular I’m thinking of those BMW drivers I’ve seen still on their “useless in cold weather” summer ‘slicks’ struggling to get up the slightest of slopes.
    Many years ago I had to go to a meeting in Poole. We (based in the North West) looked at the forecast, went by train (which got there in spite of the weather), arrived at the contractors offices at 9am – only to find that the locals hadn’t turned in. OK, it was the first snow they’d seen for a good few years, but we’d made it from half way up the country and had been driving around in our hire car with no problems travelling (apart from the obligatory locals blocking roads due to cluelessness). Part of the problem was that the council (according to our hosts) did not possess a single plough or gritter – which was not that unreasonable since none of them could remember ever having had any snow there.
    But back to rails. Yes, when it gets exceptionally hot, the expansion will firstly take out the rail tension, and then start to push – at which point the rails will start to buckle. I assume there’s a limit to the tension that can be put in rails without causing other problems in cold weather. It may be that on the continent where they get wider temperature ranges, they may have other engineering methods in use (such as expansion joints) having made a different set of tradeoffs due to their different set of operating requirements/conditions.

  9. Not in England you don’t.

    You pay for a train.

    You often get sent a bus instead. Or nothing at all.

    You do, however, get lots of announcements and cancellations due to “improvement works”, but without the improvement at the end of them.

    England’s commuter rail “service” is indefensible.

  10. the implication is that German railways get four times the income of UK ones, but that is misleading. UK ticket prices are far higher.

    It’s an attitude of culture, not money. The whole attitude can be summed up in that in the UK, a train is considered ‘late’ if it is more than five minutes late. Once you accept lazy shit like that it explains a lot of the other fuckaboutery you see on our railways.

    You could double the amount of subsidy and nothing would change, except for salaries and bonuses. Without a change in attitude and culture it will always be crap.

    In Germany and Seitzerland stuff like punctuality matters.

  11. Yet somehow they seem able to cope.

    Reluctant though I am to agree with SWP/Paul B, this will come down to cost: the French will simply spend more in the engineering and construction to cope with the larger (expected) temperature range, in SE England they probably cut the corner and hope they don’t get a hot summer or cold winter. But that’s not to say they haven’t got it right in SE England: it might not be worth the extra costs to allow for unusual events.

  12. “You do, however, get lots of announcements and cancellations due to “improvement works”, but without the improvement at the end of them.”

    Yes, I have been waiting for these improvements for 19 years now. Apart from a few new trains (which break down with the regularity of the old trains they are replacing), I haven’t seen any.

    Regarding the railway culture: my route has four lines, a fast and slow line in both directions. Trains frequently get shifted from the fast to the slow, but often no fucker announces this. They have the staff available, they are in contact with their own fucking train drivers, but it all seems to be too much for them. They have been promising ‘better communication’ for a decade but it never happens. A billion pounds from the government isn’t gong to fix this.

    It’s culture. If a country doesn’t have a service culture then it has to rely on the fear of going out of business to make providers get off their arse. Neither applies to rail in the UK. Even when a company loses its franchise TUPE regulations insist that the same useless lazy fuckers stay in their jobs.

  13. True, Rob, true.

    Interesting anecdote to add about Germany’s trains. We went there visiting a friend about three years ago, and the trains were crap.

    Expressed our surprise to our friend, given the German reputation.

    She replied that the trains used to be really good; then the rail unions started playing up, got away with it, and the trains had been a lot worse ever since.

    For rail to really work, the leftie public sector culture has to be removed.

  14. “It’s culture. If a country doesn’t have a service culture then it has to rely on the fear of going out of business to make providers get off their arse. Neither applies to rail in the UK. Even when a company loses its franchise TUPE regulations insist that the same useless lazy fuckers stay in their jobs.”

    This, so much this!

    Maybe public sector contracts should be exempt from TUPE.

  15. Tim N:

    The problem is, even a bit of frost is enough to cause problems in SE England.

    So we aren’t even talking about unusual events. We’re talking normal, seasonal English weather.

    I could understand several feet of snow. But not frost.

  16. Chicago, Toronto, and Moscow all manage to operate commuter rail services despite greater temperature extremes, so it’s not a physical limitation.

    When building a railway, you have a choice: for £X you can have a railway that works in 0° to 30°, or if you spend 5% more you can have one that works in -20° to +50°. Apart from a brief dalliance with over-engineering in the Victorian era, Britain has always chosen the cheap option.

    Historically the Brits just put up with it. Arguably it’s only thanks to Twitter that people’s complaints have become more noticeable.

    (Although I can’t abide Twitter, especially since they banned Milo Yiannopoulos.)

  17. An old buyer I knew had the motto: “cheap costs you money”

    I do wonder if the shortcuts taken by DfT and their sidekicks in Notwork Fail, the ROSCOs and the TOCs actually cost more overall (incl. health, productivity, the whole shebang) than just doing it properly in the first place.

  18. 30+ degrees (or minus 5 degrees at the other end of the scale) is hardly outside normal operating conditions for the UK. You’d expect a period of a couple of days of each at least once a year I’d say. Its pretty shit if they can’t operate in conditions that happen pretty regularly.

  19. ” the shortcuts taken by DfT and their sidekicks in Notwork Fail, the ROSCOs and the TOCs”

    Considering their level of competence, chances are they paid for the cheap stuff at the cost of the expensive stuff in the 1st place…I see that happening in our primary school each time some building work is required.

    The other people’s money effect.

    As for France, the much vaunted SNCF is a bankrupt disaster, riddled with corrupt leftist trade unions. Strikes are almost an everyday occurrence somewhere in the network, and the “service culture” is not their main worry. It’s always easy to see the grass greener on the other side, it doesn’t mean it actually is.

  20. “We had a train derailed in Taiwan a couple of weeks ago”: look, you pig, you are violating the old law that Englishmen, and Londoners in particular, are entitled to ignore all evidence when whining about – for instance – public transport.

    Christ, you’re like the fellow who points out that trains in Germany too suffer from “leaves on the line”. Don’t you believe in English exceptionalism?

  21. “” the shortcuts taken by DfT and their sidekicks in Notwork Fail, the ROSCOs and the TOCs”

    Considering their level of competence, chances are they paid for the cheap stuff at the cost of the expensive stuff in the 1st place…I see that happening in our primary school each time some building work is required.

    The other people’s money effect.”

    I suspect this is very much the case.

    PS: I’m not even a southerner. I moved down here and was gobsmacked by the shitness of rail. Left one bunch of commies behind oop north, only to find they’d put another bunch of commie troglodytes in charge of public transport dahn saaff.

  22. SNCF is so reliable that the French had to invent blablacar. A friend, a few weeks ago, got caught by 3 hour delays on his journeys to and from a French airport. Without blablacar, he would have missed his flight.

  23. It’s an attitude of culture, not money.

    That’s true for a lot of the shite you find in the UK. Being ripped-off, for example, is something the Brits seem to take remarkably well, grumbling a bit and then coughing up anyway. The Yanks simply wouldn’t pay.

  24. As for France, the much vaunted SNCF is a bankrupt disaster, riddled with corrupt leftist trade unions. Strikes are almost an everyday occurrence somewhere in the network, and the “service culture” is not their main worry. It’s always easy to see the grass greener on the other side, it doesn’t mean it actually is.

    The SNCF TGV trains are magnificent. If they are running properly. The “if” in that sentence is doing a lot of work.

  25. “That’s true for a lot of the shite you find in the UK. Being ripped-off, for example, is something the Brits seem to take remarkably well, grumbling a bit and then coughing up anyway. The Yanks simply wouldn’t pay.”

    Yep, true, but…

    The problem with commuter rail in particular is it is currently a captive market. Try not paying and you end up in court.

    As far as leisure rail goes, I tried, I really did. But a couple years back I snapped and bought myself something fun to drive instead. So yes, I stopped grumbling and stopped coughing up.

    Took me a while to use up the collected delay repay vouchers though, because the trains I used them for got delayed so I got more back! At least now you can trade them in for money.

  26. The SNCF TGV trains are magnificent. If they are running properly.

    Yes, and if you want to get from somewhere else to Paris (or vv) they’re great. But try travelling SNCF cross-country. You might get a TGV but it’s Vitesse won’t be very Grande. More likely you’ll get a 60s diesel or electric hauling filthy 60s carriages at 60 mph.

  27. Yes, and if you want to get from somewhere else to Paris (or vv) they’re great. But try travelling SNCF cross-country.

    Indeed, if you’re going from A to B and neither A or B is Paris, forget it.

    But it is really good to be able to do Paris-Avignon in 2.5 hours, as I (hopefully) will be doing on Friday.

  28. Climate here is cold winters (>-10C) with heavy snow. My town has an average of 11 metres of fresh snow every winter. Summers are hot (>>30C: we are at the same lattitude as Madrid). The trains run on time unless there’s more than a metre of overnight snow, an earthquake, or a typhoon.

    It’s an attitude thing. When my shinkansen pulls into Tokyo station there’s an army of cleaning ladies lined up to invade as soon as the last passenger has left. In 20 minutes they’ve cleared, swept, wiped, dusted, cleaned the bogs and turned all of the seats around. and its ready to go. As the train pulls out they are lined up along the platform and bowing to the customers.

    Cleaning trains might be shit work (to some), but they take pride in doing the job properly. The feeling is reciprocated. Thank you ladies for doing your job so well. You make the trains a pleasure to travel on.

  29. Hi Bloke in Japan

    Out of curiosity: do you have posters up all over the place there that warn customers not to be abusive toward train staff?

    Just wondering if rail staff getting a hard time from the public happens everywhere, or if maybe it is down to their attitude.

  30. Bloke in North Dorset

    “When building a railway, you have a choice: for £X you can have a railway that works in 0° to 30°, or if you spend 5% more you can have one that works in -20° to +50°. Apart from a brief dalliance with over-engineering in the Victorian era, Britain has always chosen the cheap option.”

    As most of the decisions will have made when the tracks were nationalised we can blame the curajous state for that decision.

    I suspect the +5% is illustrative, but whatever it is we be sure that the cost of upgrading will be many times the incremental figure when the track was laid down.

    @dearime, I’ve been delayed in Zurich by leaves on the track. As soon as I’d confirmed my rusty German with a German speaking colleague I took the stiff upper lip approach rather than gloat at my Swiss colleagues.

  31. BiND,

    Yes, the 5% is just illustrative. It could well be 200%. But it’s both technically feasible and economically affordable, as proven by other countries.

  32. “Indeed, if you’re going from A to B and neither A or B is Paris, forget it.”

    Though there are some routes, Marseille to Rennes, for example.

    “But it is really good to be able to do Paris-Avignon in 2.5 hours, as I (hopefully) will be doing on Friday.”

    Just a bit over 2.5 hours, but it is a fantastic trip. The Gare de Lyon is a pleasant station, a million times better than the festering criminal toilet that is the Gare du Nord.

    And stepping off the TGV at Avignon, on time, into that warm air at 33 degrees…sweet. The only drawback is that you are actually about 6km from Avignon.


  33. Just a bit over 2.5 hours, but it is a fantastic trip.

    2 hours 37 minutes to be pendantic. 🙂

    The Gare de Lyon is a pleasant station, a million times better than the festering criminal toilet that is the Gare du Nord.

    Oh hell yes.

    And stepping off the TGV at Avignon, on time, into that warm air at 33 degrees…sweet. The only drawback is that you are actually about 6km from Avignon.

    I’m being picked up by my friend and taken straight to the hotel. Although it’s about 30 degrees in Paris now, so not expecting much temperature difference.

  34. @Tim

    If you’re staying in Avignon, I never miss an opportunity to visit Hiély Lucullus, my favourite restaurant in France (which means anywhere). Apols, as you may well know Avignon far better than I do.

  35. A lot of the s**t in the UK is down to the laziness of the unionised workforce *at the top*. I can remember “the wrong kind of snow” – it wasn’t: the equipment supplied to the BR workers was wrong. My station was closed so I travelled to the next town (on a different line) and watched the poor guy trying to lift powder snow off the rail with a spade instead of brushing it away.
    About half-a-century ago there was a big swIng and the Conservatives won control of the council in my home town for the first time since (I think) 1947. The new Chairman of the Highways Committee decided that “gritting lorries” should go out spreading rock salt when snow started to fall instead of the next day. Surprise, surprise – the roads stayed clear ‘cos the heat of the traffic kept them so if they wren’t already blocked. The Labour Party had decided that it was unacceptable to ask men to work at night – the actual workers could see that it was sensible and agreed.

  36. Vancouver doesn’t have much snow at the low levels, pretty similar to Britain I that its the odd day with a major dump of snow every few years. Last time we had 3-4 feet the buses kept running and the trains (skytrain is mainly elevated/open air) kept running, it was something of a surprise. Turns out the trains actually have snow plans and procedures so that if there’s a forecast for snow they take action like keeping a de icing train running through the overnight shut down time to make sure line stays open etc rather than waiting until the next day and wondering how to get everything out of the storage yard.

  37. @Richard, July 20, 2016 at 10:03 am

    “Yes, the same as the argument about snow ploughs; is it worth all the investment to have them sitting idly for 363 days of the year, or is it better to just give up and shut down the country for those two days?

    But it’s better as a proper decision; the problem with the current mess is that we try to carry on as normal without the procedures to allow things to do so.”

    UK councils should copy USA and equip all bin lorries and many buses and other vehicles with a hydraulic system with mounting points for a hydraulic snow blade attachment. Then mount them when snow forecast.

    Thus, buses clearing main routes and bin lorries clearing all residential streets.

  38. Thus, buses clearing main routes and bin lorries clearing all residential streets.

    We’d have to do better than a bus every hour, and a bin collection every fortnight, for that to work here.

  39. @ Pcar and Bloke in Wales
    We could do it half-a-century ago.
    Why do you think that we cannot do it today?

  40. If you’re staying in Avignon, I never miss an opportunity to visit Hiély Lucullus, my favourite restaurant in France (which means anywhere). Apols, as you may well know Avignon far better than I do.

    I don’t know Avignon at all. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  41. @Cynic. Abusing staff would be unthinkable. Everything runs smoothly nearly all the time. When things go titsup, people are stoical because we know that JR is doing its best to provide appropriate service.

    Example. My shinkansen service is the Tsubasa, a mini shinkansen. This is a special class, fast enough to run up and down the mainlines with the big boys, but is small enough to fit the standard loading gauge of a conventional branch line. Thus, we rural hayseeds get to share the benefits of the entire system.

    FWIW, the Tsubasa started in about 1990. At 20 years old, the fleet was scrapped and replaced with new rolling stock with the benefit of active suspension. Last time I was in the UK they were still using the Intercity 125 sets which are now over 40 years old.

  42. @john77
    I saw an explanation a wile ago that now it’s all outsourced the councils don’t have the resources to redeploy the same way they used to. A half century ago the council could just order their staff to go and clear snow instead of their normal duties, now it’s a request to a contract company that will charge an arm and a leg

  43. @Bloke in Japan

    Abusing staff would be unthinkable. Everything runs smoothly nearly all the time.

    Thanks, BiJ. It’s only a sample of two, but it is interesting that the staff in England are twats and find it necessary to have posters up threatening the customers if they treat them as such, while the opposite applies in Japan.

    When things go titsup, people are stoical because we know that JR is doing its best to provide appropriate service.

    We know for sure that isn’t the case in England.

    Explains a lot.

  44. “When things go titsup, people are stoical because we know that JR is doing its best to provide appropriate service.”

    Mine makes a copy ‘n paste apology on Twitter, then shrugs.

  45. I think the thing which enrages me most of all, because it illustrates perfectly what their priorities are, is my train company’s habit of turfing everyone off a busy commuter train going home in the evening and then running it non-stop and empty to the end of the line. This means they meet their target of the train being ‘on time’ but doesn’t quite meet the targets of their passengers to get home too.

    This is so fucking ridiculous it defies belief but that is the ‘target’: the train arriving at its final destination on time. The people who drew up that target probably never considered that the cunts would empty the train to meet this.

  46. my train company’s habit of turfing everyone off a busy commuter train going home in the evening and then running it non-stop and empty to the end of the line.

    WTF? I mean, What The Fucking Fuck?

    So what would happen if the commuters banded together and staged a sit-in? If there was a stand-off at least the train would be late and the target would be missed, which might be a victory of sorts.

  47. @ BniC
    Someone is pulling your leg. You have an outsourced contract and the contractor says “no” or tries to charge an arm and a leg you hire someone else to do it (and don’t renew the contract).

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