Rail and air passengers have faced another day of disruption due to the outgoing heatwave, as engineers struggled to repair damaged rail lines and air traffic control problems disrupted flights.
On the railways, passengers travelling on Great Northern, Thameslink and East Midland Trains were all advised to avoid travelling unless their journey was essential.
At Britain’s two biggest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, thunderstorms and persistent hot weather in Europe delayed morning flights, while a technical glitch at the main air traffic control centre contributed to delays.
Fears that Thursday’s scorching temperatures could have buckled tracks led to speed restrictions on the railway, and overhead wires were also damaged. On Friday half of Thameslink’s lines were unavailable, while East Midlands trains between Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and London St Pancras International were also affected. Network Rail said it had been unable to fix the damage to the overhead wires and would need to resume repairs on Friday night.
The ongoing problems came after thousands of passengers were left stranded at major stations on Thursday, the hottest July day on record, as temperatures of up to 38.1C (100.6F) created havoc for some train operators.
One of the worst-affected routes was the east coast mainline running from London to Edinburgh. One passenger posted a video onboard a stationary London North Eastern Railway (LNER) service showing sweat-soaked commuters, including a man with a baby, desperately fanning themselves.
Another image showed a man who had collapsed being treated by medical staff outside the train.
Apologising to commuters for delays and cancellations, Phil James, from Network Rail, said: “The extreme temperatures made travelling by train very difficult at times and we thank passengers for their patience while we worked hard to get people moving again.
“Everything was done to keep trains moving where possible, and last night hundreds of staff were out fixing the damage and repairing the railway ready for today.”
Passengers using Eurostar services to and from Paris were also facing severe disruption due to overhead power line problems in the French capital, the operating company said.
Although much cooler weather swept across the country on Friday, thunderstorms caused fresh difficulties for air passengers. British Airways announced that severe thunderstorms were causing significant delays and cancellations to flights in and out of London.
Heathrow airport also apologised after “extreme weather conditions across Europe” caused flight cancellations and delays.
A glitch at air traffic controllers Nats also contributed to delays at Heathrow and Gatwick, according to Eurocontrol, the European airspace monitor.
Nats said: “We have a technical problem with a system at the Swanwick Air Traffic Control, which is causing some flight restrictions. We are doing all we can to fix it as soon as possible.”
Gatwick said departures were suffering an average delay of 38 minutes, due to a combination of the heat in Europe and the air traffic control issues. A spokesperson said: “Flights continue to arrive and depart from Gatwick however Nats has an issue with one of its radars and has put limits on the number of flights that can use Gatwick and other London airports. Passengers are advised to check the latest on their flight with their airline.”
Heathrow said: “Flights are currently arriving and departing at Heathrow, and we are supporting Nats to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We apologise to passengers for any disruption that occurs as a result.”
The Met Office predicted that thunderstorms, which brought heavy rain, gusty winds and lightning in the south-east of England on Friday morning, could continue intermittently through the day.
Along Scotland’s Moray Firth coastline, temperatures will range from 25C to 27C, while in the south-east and East Anglia the mercury could rise to 31C.
The Met Office said a new record temperature for the month was set at 38.1C in Cambridge on Thursday afternoon, beating the previous record of 36.7C set in Heathrow in 2015.
The UK will see a return to more familiar conditions this weekend, as the weather becomes less settled; there is a high chance of rain for many eastern and north-eastern areas.
The government’s advisory committee on climate change has warned that the UK is not prepared for the expected increase in heatwaves due to the climate emergency.
UK weather: rail and air travel disrupted as heatwave recedes – The Guardian