The Highs and Lows of Train Heating

Waverley by Tom ParnellHere come the cold winter days. And with them, the potential for uncomfortable rail journeys – especially when the heating isn’t working properly.

You might expect complaints about freezing carriages worthy of an ice hotel, but we also suffer from over-enthusiastic heating, making the train more like a tropical hot house. (Temperature isn’t only a problem during the winter – you can tell when summer arrives because we also start getting reports about overheating due to faulty air conditioning).

Getting the heating just right for everyone is always going to be a challenge – you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But if it’s simply not working, well, everyone can agree that it needs to be fixed!  Here is some advice about what to do.

Long distance trains are air conditioned and have on-board staff as well as the driver, so you are best finding a member of staff (preferably the train manager) and reporting the problem directly to them. They will try to fix the problem (e.g. by resetting the power) but it may be impossible to do much without an engineer. If the train is not too busy they will try and move people to an adjacent carriage, and during the summer complimentary drinks may be provided. They will often make announcements to passengers explaining the problem.

Shorter distance trains are also sometimes operated by both a driver and a train conductor, and if this is the case report the problem to the train conductor, although they may have fewer options compared to long distance trains. These trains may be air conditioned, or may just have heating and opening windows.

There are many shorter distance services which are operated only by a driver. One thing to realise is that the driver is very unlikely to know there are any problems with the heating unless they are told, and even then there may be little they can do apart from trying to reset the power if it has tripped. For older trains this may mean walking to the carriage, although newer trains may have circuit breakers in the cab. On some of the latest trains the driver can do nothing; the train automatically sends a message to the depot and an engineer may be sent to check the problem at the end of the train’s journey. It’s always worth reporting the problem to the driver as they will record it in the train’s fault book.

If you are unable to speak to the driver, then most of the train operating operating companies welcome faults being reported through their Twitter accounts; remember to include information such as the origin, destination and time of the train, and also preferably the carriage number (the 5 digit number which will often be written inside at the end of the carriage as well as on the outside).

In all these cases if you are unhappy with how the incident was handled then you can report it via FixMyTransport, and you can also do the same for well handled issues as public record of the problem and how it was handled. This way you can also add further updates if there is a recurring problem and other FixMyTransport may add their own experiences.

Image credit: Tom Parnell (CC)