Protecting Your Rail Operations Against Cold Weather

With colder spells becoming increasingly commonplace and winter looming ever closer, train operators and facilities managers across the UK will no doubt be thinking about how they can maintain safe, efficient operations for their rolling stock as the harsher weather sets in. While the cold weather brings with it many challenges to keeping our railways running on schedule, proper preparation will ensure that rail professionals are ready for the worst that winter can throw at them.

David Gilmour, business manager for SOCOTEC’s Environment & Safety Services, answers a range of frequently asked questions on how to keep your railways operational this winter.

How many winterisation chemicals do I need to stock in the next couple of months?

I regularly see sites with up to 30 or 40 different winterisation chemicals in stock, many of which do not need to be used. It is highly recommended that you review the number of chemicals you have in stock, as many of the modern chemicals available are now designed for multiple uses. This will not only save on cost but also reduce the amount of storage space required, streamlining your winterisation process.

Appropriate stock levels will also vary depending upon the size and location of your site. For instance, a large depot in Scotland is much more likely to require higher levels of stock compared to a small depot in the south of England. It is highly recommended that you order your winterisation chemicals as early as possible and start planning ahead of time to ensure you are not caught out by unseasonal weather conditions.

How do I ensure that my winterisation chemicals are applied effectively?

Every chemical has its own optimum concentration level where it will be most effective – some may perform better when applied by hand, while others should be applied using specialist equipment. As a result, you need to ensure that you have enough equipment on site to meet the individual requirements of each chemical. It is also important to avoid any cross-contamination of your equipment by using dedicated apparatus, as this will help to prevent unnecessary equipment failure.

Do I need to test my heating systems before winter sets in?

Winter is the worst time for your heating to fail,  so it is important to keep it properly and regularly maintained so as to extend its life for as long as possible. Check the condition of the closed water systems within your heating in advance of the cold weather setting in. You should also ensure that there is a suitable and sufficient corrosion inhibitor within your heating system, as fouling and corrosion can cause insufficient performance and long-term damage.

Does my wash plant equipment require inspection?

A large number of carriage washes have an automatic frost detection system complete with a shut-off feature for when the temperature drops below a specified threshold. If this system fails, it can result in exterior damage to the rolling stock or even the breakdown of the carriage wash machine. It is also vital to ensure that all of the associated pipework and water storage tanks are sufficiently insulated to prevent damage.

Will I need to review my site procedures?

We recommend carrying out an annual audit of winterisation procedures, preferably in late October or early November, as this will allow time for any actions to be implemented. However, it is not too late to review procedures and put in place the required efficiencies for the remainder of the winter period.

Do I need to update and renew training for myself and my staff?

Any changes to the chemicals, equipment or procedures used on site require additional employee training. This not only covers the handling of chemicals but also Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which should be worn during chemical application. You should also remember to renew your COSHH assessments accordingly if you are updating your chemicals and/or equipment.

Did you know that SOCOTEC provides winterisation audits as part of its range of services? Contact us here for further information.

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