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Consequences of winter weather

The weather has a major influence on the railway network, and extreme weather conditions can result in unpredictable departure and arrival times.

Snow can cause switches to become stuck and increase the wear on trains. We observe that more disruptions occur on the first day of snow or freezing temperatures, so we implement schedule changes when winter weather is forecast. We run about 80% of the trains, and we run longer trains if possible to accommodate more travellers. Switching to a winter schedule creates room to quickly solve any problems that arise on the rail network. However, winter weather can still result in inconvenience for travellers, so we recommend that you keep an eye on weather reports and consult the Travel Planner before departure.

Ice under the trains

As the train moves over the track, large chunks of snow and ice can accumulate under the cars. Most of the ice accumulates behind the wheels and around the lines that run underneath the trains. These chunks can then break off when the train runs over a switch in the track. If snow and ice accumulates between the switches, this can cause switch defects or damage to the bottom of the train or a subsequent train. To prevent this from happening, we regularly spray the bottom of the trains with warm glycol in the winter, which makes it difficult for ice to accumulate under the train for several weeks.

Click here to find out how we spray the trains with glycol.

Disruptions on the trains

Snow can cause extra disruptions to the train's electrical systems. Wind-blown snow can cause short circuits if it enters the ventilation systems of certain modern trains. The air intake is often positioned low on the side of the train, which makes it easier for wind-blown snow to block the intake and enter the housing of the electrical systems. Water from melting snow can also affect electrical systems. NS is working hard to protect the trains from the effects of winter weather; over the past few years, parts that are sensitive to water and condensation have been replaced and extra inspections have been conducted. 

Frozen switches

Switches can freeze shut if snow or ice falls between the moving parts of the switch. Heating the switches can prevent this from happening, so when the temperatures approach freezing, ProRail heats 5,500 of the more than 7,000 switches on the rail network using switch heaters. ProRail also digs the fill material out from underneath the switches so that snow and ice can fall through without getting stuck between the moving parts. For more information, see the ProRail website.

Ice on the overhead power lines

Trains need sufficient electricity in order to run properly. Ice accumulation on the overhead power lines can cause wear to the train's power connector, which reduces the contact with the power line. In the worst cases, the train no longer receives electrical power and stops running completely. But ice can also cause variations in the current in the power line, which activates the breaker switches and shuts off the power completely. In order to prevent ice from accumulating due to sleet or frost, we try to run as many trains as possible along the route, even if they are empty. We also run trains specifically to remove sleet from the overhead power lines.

For more information on sleet and frost, see the Stichting Hollands Spoor website.