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England is bracing for temperatures above 40C which would break a record set three years ago, prompting the UK’s National Weather Service to issue its first ‘red warning for exceptional heat’.

“Exceptional, possibly record high, temperatures are likely early next week,” said Paul Gundersen, the UK’s chief meteorologist. “There is a 50% chance that we may see temperatures above 40C and an 80% chance that we will see a new maximum temperature reached.”

He warned that this level of heat “can have adverse health effects”.

The severe weather warning for Monday and Tuesday covers parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England. An amber warning has been in place for much of this week.

There will be a high risk of “failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localized loss of electricity and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services”, the Bureau of Meteorology in its press release.

Rail passengers in England and Wales were warned not to travel unless ‘absolutely necessary’ on Monday and Tuesday.

Network Rail, which runs Britain’s rail infrastructure, said the heat can affect overhead power lines and steel train tracks. It could impose speed restrictions next week to prevent the rails from buckling.

Avanti West Coast, which runs rail services between London and cities in the Midlands, northern England and Scotland, has warned passengers to expect disruption including changes to timetables and journeys longer.

More people will head to coastal areas, lakes and rivers, increasing the risk of water safety incidents, the Met Office added.

Motoring group RAC expects roadside assistance to increase with driver numbers on Monday and Tuesday 15-20% above normal for mid-July. That would equate to over 1,000 additional outages per day.

The record temperature in the UK is 38.7°C, set at the Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25, 2019.

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