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Delays explained

Reasons for delays on Southeastern trains, including infrastructure issues and engineering works

Delays explained further

We hate announcing delays as much as you hate hearing them, but sometimes things don’t work out to plan.
 
If you’re confused by the odd reasons given for delays then read on for what terms like ‘leaves on the line’ really mean. Get insights into the problems caused and how we’re working closely with Network Rail to minimise them.

OMG

Leaves on the line 

Again? It’s no joke, but we’re on the case. 

You wouldn’t think the humble leaf could cause so much trouble. 50 million leaves fall onto our train tracks every autumn. When mixed with rain and squashed by train wheels, they form a slippery layer on the rails like black ice. Our drivers need more time to stop and start the trains as the wheels have less grip on the tracks. 

We're on the case 

  • Clearing hundreds of miles of trackside vegetation throughout the year
  • Running special leaf-busting trains throughout autumn that clean the rails using water jets and apply a sand-based gel to help trains grip the rails
  • Adding a few minutes to journey times to give drivers more time to stop and start
  • Putting an amended timetable in place at some stations on days when the weather is forecast to be at its worst

Find out more about Autumn 


Flooding

Raindrops seem harmless enough, but heavy rain can flood tracks and slow down trains.
 
Flood waters can damage equipment and cut power to the train. They can also wash away ballast (crushed stone), and weaken the track.
 
To protect places at risk of flooding, we and Network Rail are doing a number of things:
  • We have flood defence teams and pumping stations at the ready
  • We’re clearing drainage ditches
  • We’re lifting up tracks and signaling equipment


Lightning strikes

Lightning can be frightening. It can also do real damage if it strikes the sensitive signalling systems Network Rail manage to keep our trains running.

If that happens, signals will automatically turn red, stopping trains on our lines.
 
Together we’re trying to strike out these delays with:
  • Special equipment to protect signals
  • A new system to pinpoint lightning strikes, so we can fix signals quicker

Improvement works

Engineering projects, improvement works, do genuinely make our trains more reliable, and allow us to have more trains and faster services on the network.
 
Our trains run on 20,000 miles of tracks managed and maintained by Network Rail. Improvement work on our network is carefully planned up to two years in advance, and we do everything we can to minimise disruption. This is why most improvement work is done at night, at weekends and over public holidays. Occasionally, however, they do over-run.

Points failure

A points failure means that one of the sections of track at a junction that lets trains move from one line to another has broken. 
 
These points can get clogged up with dirt, leaves, branches and other debris. They can also expand when it’s very hot. Network Rail manages the infrastructure our trains run on and is doing a number of things to make the points on our route more reliable including:
  • Monitoring them remotely
  • Introducing new designs for points and their components
  • Painting some points white so they absorb less heat

Fixing things fast and getting compensation

We work with Network Rail to try to reduce disruption, and fix things as quickly as possible when things go wrong. 
 
But if you have been delayed by more than 30 minutes, you can claim Delay Repay compensation.
 
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