UK utilities under pressure as temperature hits 40C

The UK experienced its highest temperature of 40.3C on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, as a heatwave gripped the country and caused widespread disruption to roads and paths. iron and in the health system.

Recording in Coningsby in Lincolnshire, 150 miles north of London, took place as much of eastern and southern England suffered from extreme heat.

It eclipsed the previous record of 38.7C set in Cambridge in 2019 and was nearly matched in several parts of London including Kew Gardens, Heathrow Airport and St James’s Park, all of which recorded higher temperatures at 40°C.

Elsewhere in the capital, dry vegetation has sparked a number of grassland fires, prompting London firefighters to declare a major incident. In Wennington, near Dartford Crossing on the eastern outskirts of the city, several homes were destroyed by fire – one of at least 10 fires across Greater London, including Twickenham, Dagenham and Uxbridge.

The record was set after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned it could take ‘decades’ to make Britain’s transport system more resilient to extreme heat waves.

High temperatures have also hit the NHS, highlighting the poor condition of many hospitals and other buildings after years in which capital spending has been severely cut.

Staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’, a major group of teaching hospitals in London, have been forced to resort to mobile phone communication and the use of paper documents after their computer servers crashed in the heat.

Management declared a “critical incident at the site”, according to internal communications viewed by the Financial Times, which attributed the outage “to outside temperatures and failing air conditioning units”.

the hospital tells patients via Twitter that he “had problems with our computer and telephone systems”.

Miriam Deakin, head of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said the health service was “heating up” as the heat wave continued into a second day, “affecting emergency and emergency care and some care planned”.

“Trusts simply don’t have the infrastructure they need to deal with these extreme weather conditions,” she added.

Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, said the record temperature was “a harbinger of things to come” and that weak net commitments zero now would accrue greater pain for the future.

Network Rail workers examine tracks that have buckled in the heat © Network Rail

Railways across England ran dramatically reduced services on Tuesday, with cancellations on lines north of London as heat overwhelmed infrastructure designed for a maximum temperature of 35C.

All services going north to York on the East Coast Mainline from King’s Cross station in London have been cancelled. The station concourse, which normally handles 220,000 passengers a day, was deserted; departure boards showed long columns of canceled services.

Transport for London, which runs the capital’s bus, tube and rail network, said journeys were down 30% from a week ago as commuters heeded advice to stay home home.

Climate change will present the UK with a long-term challenge to upgrade its infrastructure, Shapps warned. Steel rail tracks absorb heat and are prone to buckling and sagging, increasing the risk of derailment. Some tracks reached 62C on Monday, according to Network Rail.

Shapps told Sky News that building the infrastructure had taken decades, citing the example of millions of miles of road where tarmac would need replacing. Councils have this week put sand pits on hold to spread sand on molten motorways.

“We have seen the hottest days on record in the past 10 to 15 years. So we will see that more. It’s a huge piece of infrastructure to replace,” he said.

The Met Office also said the country probably experienced its hottest night in history on Monday, with temperatures reaching 25C in some areas, beating the previous record of 23.9C set in 1990.

Dann Mitchell, Met Office co-chair on climate risks and professor of climate science at the University of Bristol, warned that such tropical nights stress the human body, increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. .

“Even in our current climate, a record high of over 40C is considered extremely rare, but as our climate warms we expect to see these kinds of exceedances every two years,” he said. added.

Additional reporting by Sarah Neville, Robert Wright, Nathalie Thomas and Bethan Staton