This week’s heatwave will see temperatures soar to 35C – but Britain may struggle to cope, with health problems and travel disruption anticipated.
Vulnerable groups have been advised to try and stay cool amid fears that lives could be at risk, while trains will run slower to guard against tracks buckling in the broiling temperatures.
With Wednesday forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, the elderly, young children and people with breathing difficulties have been told to keep out of the sun and stay hydrated by Public Health England.
Dr Angie Bone, from PHE, said there could be more deaths than usual.
She said it seemed “likely” that the Met Office would issue a level 3 heatwave alert – which requires community support for at-risk groups, media alerts about keeping cool and a review of safety at public events.
She added: “It is possible that we will see an excess mortality but it is too early to tell. “We know that high temperatures do have an impact on health, particularly on older people and young children and people with chronic diseases.” The heatwave is being caused by a warm front and tropical continental air mass from Europe pushing across the country, bringing high temperatures and humidity.
Commuters are advised to check their journeys before travelling and have been warned that there may be disruption caused by the hot weather.
The heat is predicted to be so intense that Network Rail has imposed a speed restriction on some services today to stop the rails from buckling.
“As rails are made out of steel, they expand as they heat up and are subject to strong compression,” Network Rail said on its website.
“This expansion has to be managed to reduce the risk of track buckling. “If the track does buckle, the line must be closed and the track repaired before services can resume, causing considerable disruption. Usually, these repairs can’t be done until the temperature of the rails has dropped.
“If a section of track is judged to be at risk, we introduce local speed restrictions – slower trains exert lower forces on the track and reduce the chance of buckling.”
The mercury is predicted to hit 30C (86F) on Tuesday and 35C (95F) on Wednesday, making Britain hotter than Beirut, Lebanon. First Great Western services in the Thames Valley area will be disrupted from midday to 8pm on Tuesday.