Employment

UK heatwave: How to travel safely if you absolutely have to

If you have no other option but to travel in the heatwave, here's how to do it safely.

The UK heatwave could see temperatures in London could go up to 40C for the first time, making the underground dangerous to travel. Image: Lina Kivaka/Pexels

The Met Office has warned of exceptional heat for southern and central areas of the UK in the coming days, with temperatures expected to near 40C in some areas for the first time. 

Bosses have been urged to embrace flexible working so employees can stay “comfortable and productive” but while those who can will likely work from home – some will still have to travel to work or other commitments.  

If your office has air conditioning, it might be a more comfortable environment to work in than a baking flat, but make sure to take precautions on your journey.

Aside from the obvious – such as always carrying a bottle of water – here’s how to travel safely during the heatwave. 

Travel during the coolest parts of the day 

If you absolutely must travel, try to do so during the coolest parts of the day, which are early in the morning and late in the evening. However, this is also when most commuters hit the roads or public transport, so aim to start your morning journey as early as possible or head home late to avoid the 5pm rush. 

“Most of us can enjoy the hot weather when it arrives, but it is important to keep yourself hydrated and to find shade where possible when UV rays are strongest, between 11am and 3pm,” says Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UK Health Security Agency.

Check trains are running, there may be delays

Trains may have to travel at slower speeds as the rails heat to abnormally high temperatures. National Rail has warned that this could cause delays, recommending that passengers check the status of their journey before leaving the house to avoid waiting longer on platforms than necessary. 

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director said: “If the soaring temperatures do lead to us having to put in place slower speeds for safety reasons, please bear with us as our engineers work to fix the problem. It may mean some journeys take longer.

“For those who must travel by rail, we’d remind people to carry some water with them so they can stay hydrated, and always check before travelling so they know exactly what to expect.”

Some underground lines are cooler than others – here are the lines with air-con

Transport for London has air conditioned trains on at least 40 per cent of its network, that’s 192 air-conditioned trains. These are on the Circle, District, Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan and Elizabeth lines. The majority of the London Overground is also air-conditioned so you might want to alter your trip to travel on some of these.

Take a look at this map of the air conditioned lines on the London underground and try to plan your route accordingly. 

Before driving, check your vehicle to avoid breaking down on hot roads

During very hot weather, hot tarmacked roads absorb the heat and can become burning to the touch. With reports of roads melting during the recent hot weather, the last place you want to be is stuck by the side of a very hot road in a hot car.  

Mel Clarke, customer service director for operations at National Highways, said: “It is always important to plan ahead for your journey and this advice is no different during periods of hot weather. Our advice is that everyone should check their vehicles, such as tyres, coolant and oil levels, before heading out.” 

Watch out for signs of heatstroke and heat-related illness

The NHS lists the some of the signs of heat exhaustion as: 

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • being very thirsty

Children in particular, can become “floppy or sleepy” so it’s important to keep alert rather than assuming they’re just tired. 

If you think someone has heatstroke you need to help them find somewhere to cool down immediately.

These are the steps to take to according to the NHS:

  • Move them to a cool place.
  • Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
  • Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
  • Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.

Call 999 immediately if they start to breathe quickly or have shortness of breath, have a seizure, lose consciousness, or are not responsive.

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