Rail chiefs spend £2m to fight off winter weather

RAIL chiefs have spent £2 million on an action plan to keep services running this winter – by using power showers and wrapping trains in polythene.

ScotRail said the investment would also mean better information for passengers – including free text alerts – and improved access to stations.

The train operator is also staging roadshows across the country including at Waverley and Haymarket to raise awareness of its winter plan and to encourage passengers to plan ahead.

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The firm’s Jacqueline Taggart, director of customer services, said today: “There is no doubt that services will be disrupted if there is a repeat of the extreme conditions experienced last year. However, we will do all we can to keep people informed and to take care of them.”

A UK first, “power shower” systems, regarded as best practice in Finland, are being introduced at all maintenance depots to remove snow and ice from the undersides of trains more quickly.

Showers of hot water – from a network of sprinklers – are used to melt the ice and allow maintenance and safety checks to be completed more quickly.

A new design of ‘polytunnels’, each 75 metres long, will be used to de-ice trains faster in a controlled, warm environment. They can defrost a three-carriage diesel unit in less than two hours compared with the normal six hours.

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Other improvements include a “traffic lights” system on the ScotRail website to see at a glance which routes are running normally.

Customers can register to receive free text alerts and at times of disruption ScotRail’s Twitter service will stay open later to help.

New-style shovels and snow ploughs have been issued to all staffed stations to help clear snow from platforms and walkways, and equipment used by roving station maintenance teams has been increased.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Thinking ahead and being prepared for winter at home, on transport networks and within local communities is something everyone can do.

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“That is why we welcome ScotRail’s efforts to place customer information and investment in service resilience at the forefront of their efforts.

“By keeping trains moving and providing better information, the rail industry can minimise disruption while getting people on the move as quickly as possible when it does occur.”