Heatwave slows trains as UK braces for hottest day

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A tennis fan cools off at Wimbledon as the tournament braces for its hottest day on record

A tennis fan cools off at Wimbledon as the tournament braces for its hottest day on record (AFP Photo/Glyn Kirk)

London (AFP) - Hot and bothered rail commuters faced the added torment of speed restrictions Wednesday, while female players at sizzling Wimbledon are likely to be offered heat breaks with temperatures set to soar into the mid-30s.

Network Rail warned of possible delays as it imposed the measures on some train lines amid fears that the metal tracks could buckle under the scorching heat on what is set to be Britain's hottest day in nine years.

"We are maintaining track temperatures and if necessary putting in speed restrictions so we can protect vulnerable places and keep the trains moving," a Network Rail spokeswoman said.

Temperatures could hit 35 Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in London today, topping California and Hawaii, with Wimbledon, which kicked off on Monday, bracing for the hottest day in its history.

Organisers have said they will allow female players to take heat breaks, prompting an outcry over a rule that does not apply to the men's tour.

Women players will be able to take 10 minutes to cool down between the second and third sets when temperatures exceed 30.1C.

The highest-ever temperature recorded at Wimbledon was 34C in 1976.

Most of Britain will enjoy temperatures of 30-33C as the heatwave peaks Wednesday, with the Met Office forecasting thunderstorms for parts of the country overnight and into Thursday.

Fire and rescue services warned of the potential dangers of outdoor swimming after a man in his 20s was found dead at a reservoir in Tattingstone, Suffolk, late Tuesday.

On the roads, British Coastguard teams handed out water to lorry drivers stuck in traffic jams on the M20 in Kent, caused by a ferry workers' strike that has closed the French Port of Calais.