Despite regular inspections and periodic maintenance, switches can occasionally become defective due to snow or frost. During winter weather conditions, ProRail assigns dozens of extra snow teams and disruption teams to maintain the switches. The snow teams clear the tracks and switches of ice and snow, while the disruption teams are responsible for repairing defective switches as quickly as possible.
Snowfall can increase the chance of switches becoming inoperable. They can freeze in one position or become obstructed due to ice and snow. So when the temperature approaches freezing, ProRail turns on the heat for around 5,500 important switches equipped with heaters.
ProRail ensures that these heaters work properly through regular maintenance, inspections and testing. Over the next few years, ProRail will be installing a new, more robust heating system.
ProRail also digs the fill material out from underneath the switches, so that snow and ice fall through the switches instead of accumulating between the rails.
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, we try to run as many trains as possible along the route, even if they are empty.
Winter towing service
During winter weather conditions, trains can occasionally become stranded between stations. We strive to prevent travelers from waiting too long in a cold train, so when extreme weather is expected we have at least two diesel locomotives standing by at strategic locations in order to tow away stranded trains.
Winter at the station
Snow and frost can result in slippery platforms. So during winter weather conditions, we spread sand, salt or deicer at most stations. When snow falls, we work to keep the platforms, the walk paths and the access roads as clear of snow as possible.