Record temperatures cause train chaos and melt runways… and it’s about to get even hotter

Flights at two airports were halted over melting runways and a section of railway in London buckled on Monday as the heatwave continued to roast the UK, while previous record high temperatures were broken in Wales. In England, the highest recorded temperature was 38.1?C in Santon Downham, Suffolk, according to the Met Office, marking the third-hottest day on record and easily the hottest day of the year so far. Temperatures in Hawarden in Flintshire, north-east Wales, reached 37.1?C on Monday, which is provisionally the highest ever seen in the country.

It shatters the previous Welsh record of 35.2?C recorded at the same location in August 1990. It comes as farmers at the Royal Welsh Show near Builth Wells in Powys resorted to slathering pigs in sun tan lotion as they sought to care for the around 8,000 animals in attendance, according to the BBC.

A police officer offers a bottle of water to a police horse named Zack during hot weather, on Whitehall in London, Britain, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley

A police officer offers a bottle of water to a police horse named Zack during hot weather, on Whitehall in London, Britain, July 18, 2022./ppREUTERS/John Sibley

A police officer offers a bottle of water to a police horse named Zack during hot weather, on Whitehall in London (Photo: Reuters)

The Met Office says there is a "95 per cent chance" that England will also see its hottest day on record this week, with the high of 38.7?C recorded in Cambridge in 2019 highly likely to be shattered on Tuesday. Temperatures could climb as high as 41?C - with highs close to those figures possible across "a large part of central England", according to the Met Office's Aidan McGivern. A forecast shows highs between 39?C to 41?C expected in Cambridge, Peterborough, Nottingham and inner London in mid-afternoon.

The heat will peak around 4pm, before cooling off significantly on Tuesday night. Around 32 million people live in parts of England for which 'red' extreme heat warnings have been issued, he added. Some schools in several counties - including Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire - were closed, while others cancelled sports days and detentions, and relaxed uniform codes.

"Melting" runways led to flights being cancelled at London Luton Airport and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, the country's largest RAF airbase. Flights at other airports including Heathrow continued as normal, however. Train companies across England and Wales reported severe delays and cancelled services as Network Rail imposed temporary speed restrictions to limit the risk of damage to the track, which can buckle in high temperatures.

Trains were limited to 60mph in the West Midlands, while LNER said trains between London and the North East will not run at all on Tuesday due to the potential hazards. Network Rail deployed teams to apply heat-protective paint to rails in the worst-hit areas, with at least one "kink in the rail" reported at Vauxhall in south London - where the metal had heated up to more than 48?C.

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i ? One of the ways the heat can affect our railway.

A kink in the tracks was spotted near #Vauxhall earlier today. Our team are working to fix this, and thankfully trains can be re-routed to avoid the affected section, so delays should be minor. ???? https://t.co/WO3WHQxeJd pic.twitter.com/iELaqPdRXN

-- Network Rail Wessex (@NetworkRailWssx) July 18, 2022

A spokesperson said: "Our team are working to fix this, and thankfully trains can be re-routed to avoid the affected section." Network Rail explained: "When steel gets hot it expands.

The rails become longer and start pushing against the pieces of track next to them. "This can damage the equipment that detects where trains are keeping them a safe distance apart. "When this happens, we stop trains to keep everyone safe.

If there is no room for the rail to expand, the rail can buckle and we need to close the line to fix it before trains can run again. When we stop trains or close a line, this causes delays." Track circuit failures as a "direct result of the hot temperatures" also saw lines into Bournemouth blocked, with signalling faults also reported elsewhere.

Road traffic appeared to still be moving freely on Monday afternoon, though gritter trucks had been put on standby across the country to help avert damage to softening road surfaces if the tarmac starts to melt. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was clear investment is needed for travel infrastructure to deal with hot weather, adding: "It is obvious that these events are likely to take place much more often. "One projection is that we'll see the kind of temperatures that we may get today and tomorrow maybe every three to five years, rather than a one-in-a-hundred-year kind of incident, or for the first time ever.

"So we do need to build our infrastructure, whether that's rail or roads or aviation, to withstand these new temperatures and that's exactly what we're getting on with doing."

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People have also been warned to expect some sweaty nights ahead, with what is likely to be the warmest night on record in the UK expected into Tuesday. Met Office meteorologist Luke Miall said: "I've been a qualified meteorologist for 10 years, and telling people about 41?C in the UK doesn't seem real. "It's crazy how we are talking about these sorts of values, I've never seen the models coming up with these values."

On a visit to Cornwall, Prince Charles stressed the link between climate change and extreme weather - a significant intervention from the heir to the throne as some Tory leadership candidates hint at watering down the UK's green commitments. He said: "As we all swelter under today's alarming, record temperatures across Britain and Europe...the climate crisis is a genuine emergency and tackling it is utterly essential." "It's been quite an eye-opener to climate change with all these temperatures in the UK."

Climate change, which has pushed up global temperatures by 1.2?C on pre-industrial levels, is making heatwaves longer, more intense and more likely. Power cuts were reported in some parts of the country, leaving people unable to switch their fans on, though UK Power Networks said their systems were "currently operating normally." The Energy Networks Association added: "All our members are operating business as usual with no faults due to the bad weather."

A notice to power stations was issued on Monday afternoon to remind them they must ensure they have enough megawatts available for an expected surge in electricity demand this evening.

National Grid ESO, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, said: "This was due to a combination of factors including high exports, low wind, planned plant maintenance outages, higher than usual demand and a small reduction in gas generation."

It later cancelled the notice, adding: "Based on current assessments and submitted data the ESO is confident that electricity margins are sufficient."