‘Skirting’ the snow

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ScotRail is to fit heated ‘skirts’ to its trains in a bid to remove tonnes of snow and compacted ice from the undercarriages more quickly.

Engineering staff successfully trialled the skirts this weekend when powerful pumps were used to blow hot air to warm up the underside of a train at a depot in Glasgow.

It is believed to be the first time the wrapping technique has ever been done within the railway industry.

ScotRail has purchased enough of the skirting material to wrap two trains at once.

Kenny Scott, engineering director at ScotRail, believes that the heated skirts will become an essential part of the train operator’s armoury to combat the impact of severe winter weather on trains.

He said:

“The sub-zero temperatures last week were so low that we have not been able to get enough trains into warm sheds to defrost. However, with the heated skirts we can effectively defrost them while outside a depot – which means trains are back in passenger service more quickly.

“It takes half an hour to attach the skirt, but initial results show that we will be able to defrost a train within four hours – which is a huge benefit.”

Severe weather train skirtsFurther initiatives to combat the effects of snow and ice on its units include doubling the number of high pressure water lances at depots to remove compacted ice and boosting the ambient heating in all its depots.

During the last 10 days some ScotRail trains have been damaged by frozen blocks of packed snow and ice falling from undercarriages and then bouncing back upwards. These trains have to be withdrawn from service until safety checks and repairs are carried out.

Up to three tonnes of snow can gather under a train during a day’s work in bitter weather. The sub-zero temperatures are such that the snow does not melt on contact with the undercarriage.