A spark is said to have ignited the tinder beams on the tracks in Battersea, south London today (11 July) as the capital city experiences soaring temperatures.
Steve White, managing director of Southeastern Railway, shared an image of the blaze online and expressed his thanks to the rail company and the London Fire Brigade, writing: "Thanks... for responding promptly to a lineside fire this morning and allowing services to safely resume to Victoria."
In response to the image, Network Rail Southeast shared another image of the fire and stressed the heat was 'going be a serious challenge for all of us this week'.
When questioned by Twitter users about exactly how the tracks had caught ablaze, the organisation said: "Wheel timbers on the bridge caught fire - they are very dry as you would imagine and although we don't know for sure, it's possible a stray spark set them alight."
Wheel timbers on the bridge caught fire - they are very dry as you would imagine and although we don't know for sure, it's possible a stray spark set them alight. An inspection has passed the line fit for operation but we'll still be looking at whether they need replacing.— Network Rail Kent & Sussex (@NetworkRailSE) July 11, 2022
Network Rail went on to assure that an inspection had 'passed the line fit for operation', but said it would be looking into whether the tracks needed replacing in the wake of the incident.
The heat is expected to hit 31°C. in the UK, prompting Network Rail to warn passengers that trains may run more slowly as a result.
Services already impacted by the rising temperatures include West Midlands Trains routes between Stratford-upon-Avon, Leamington Spa and Kidderminster, where speeds have been reduced by 40mph to 20mph.
Network Rail is thought to be monitoring a number of locations as the temperatures stay high over the next few days, when lines could be at risk of buckling under extra pressure in the heat.
The organisation explains: "When the air temperature reaches 30 degrees, the temperature on the rail can actually be up to 20 degrees higher... For some of our track, such high temperatures are more than our track is designed to cope with, however. The problem is that when steel rails get hot, they expand, which can cause a buckled rail."
In a post on Twitter, Network Rail said hot weather can also cause the overhead wires which power electric trains to sag, in turn causing further delays.
Forecasters have suggested the current heatwave could break the record for the hottest day in 2022 so far, which currently stands at 32.7°C recorded at Heathrow in June.
Featured Image Credit: Network Rail
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