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We've been enjoying some glorious weather across Merseyside over the past few weeks - but it hasn't been all good news, particularly for rail users.
As temperatures soar, train services can be met with delays and cancellations due to issues on the railway lines.
Because, when hot weather hits, it causes the steel rail on the tracks to expand, and when this happens, the line becomes impassable for trains.
Train passengers travelling on the Kirkby line last week incurred this issue when one of its services "buckled".
A spokesman for Merseyrail said: "In the heat we have experienced recently, rails can become hot and expand which makes the line impassable for trains.
Merseyrail have been explaining what the hot weather does to railway tracks (Image: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)"On Friday, June 29, a buckled rail on the Kirkby line caused disruption to services while repairs took place.
"Merseyrail staff distributed lolly ices to passengers on the Ormskirk and Kirkby lines on Monday, July 2, to apologise for the disruption".
But can rail users expect lines to buckle more often as the 'blowtorch' heatwave continues?
The steel rail on a railway track is a very long piece of metal that can expand or contract significantly in the summer and winter.
spokesman for Network Rail said: “On very sunny days, rails in direct sunshine can be as much as 20 degrees centigrade above air temperature,causing the steel to expand markedly and could, if not carefully monitored and action taken, buckle causing travel disruption.
“When we install tracks, small gaps called expansion joints are left between sections of steel rails to safely allow them to expand and contract as temperatures change throughout the year.
"If the joints have already fully closed up and the rail continues to expand, then the rail goes into what is known as 'compression'.
"The combined system of rail, sleepers and ballast which make up our track is designed to resist these forces – but, in extreme cases, the tracks can buckle, making it impossible to run trains."
Liverpool, like much of the country, has been basking in 30 degrees plus for much of the past two weeks and temperatures are remaining high.
In extreme heat, Network Rail takes precautions so rails are less likely to buckle - including introducing speed restrictions and painting certain parts of the rail white - so it doesn't absorb as much heat.
We've been experiencing a heatwave across Merseyside recently. Photo by Colin Lane (Image: Liverpool Echo)A Network Rail spokesman said: "Our engineers and specialist extreme weather teams are monitoring track-side temperatures and vulnerable locations and will, if necessary, introduce temporary speed restrictions during the hottest part of the day to keep trains running, albeit more slowly than normal.
"We work closely with specialist weather forecasters and local weather stations and have installed mini weather-stations and thousands of track-side probes to monitor local conditions.
"We also paint certain parts of the rail white so they absorb less heat – and expand less. Typically, a rail painted white is 5C to 10C cooler.
"Our teams check track stability each winter as part of ongoing maintenance, and strengthen any weak parts before summer."
This article first appeared on www.liverpoolecho.co.uk
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