Kent's Third Rails To Be Heated

A £16 million plan to combat the ``third rail problem'' that contributed to train delays last winter was announced today by the Government.

The money will go towards heating the third rail which supplies electric power from the track to the train on many busy south east England rail routes.

It is part of a £38 million programme announced by Transport Secretary Justine Greening to ensure trains run as smoothly as possible this winter.

She also said she has asked the UK Roads Board to explore further measures to make better use of salt, equipment and infrastructure to keep local highways open and safe during severe winter weather.

Ms Greening said she would look at the case for increased investment in the Met Office's super-computing capacity that could ultimately provide improved information on the likelihood and impact of severe weather and support better long-term planning.

The work to combat bad weather on the railways will cover 116,000 metres of track and more than 400 sites across Kent, Sussex and West Country routes.

Ms Greening visited a rail depot in Tonbridge in Kent today to see some of the winter preparations that the rail industry is putting in place and met managers from Network Rail and the Southeastern train company.

She said: ``Severe cold weather will always cause some disruption but the Government has worked with our industry partners to minimise the impact on passengers and businesses in future.

``Both airports and the railway are much better prepared than in the past and our current salt stock in Britain is over 2.7 million tonnes. Today I am announcing £16 million of investment in our rail infrastructure to help keep trains moving in snow and ice.''

She went on: ``But I'm also asking the industry to raise its game and communicate better with passengers in severe weather.

``However much resilience train operators have built in, when problems do occur it's a lack of information that makes delays so frustrating and makes it more difficult for passengers to plan their journeys.''