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The impact of severe weather on train services is a wake up call to everyone

20 February 2013

The quarterly performance monitor issued by the Office of Rail Regulation highlighted the impact of extreme weather on train performance.



“It has been a difficult period for passengers, with disruption on many lines due to extreme weather. Our staff worked tirelessly, often in difficult circumstances, to get the railway back up and running and we would like to thank passengers and train operators for bearing with us during this time.

The damage that extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear. Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to sixty landslides in a single day.

This has been a wake up call for the whole industry, which we ignore at our peril. As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January, we are playing catch up on decades of under-investment. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the embankments, cuttings, bridges, tunnels and other structures which have struggled to cope with extreme weather, alongside the burden of carrying more passengers than they were designed for. Our submission to our regulator for the next five-year funding settlement reflects our plan to tackle this.”

David Higgins, chief executive, Network Rail 

Our strategic business plan (England and Wales) for control period 5 (2014-19) was published on 8 January 2013. The plan contains details on the need to future-proof critical infrastructure against the impact of changing weather patterns, including more frequent flooding.

The majority of our structures and earthworks assets are over a century old. They degrade very slowly which, meaning their longevity, can lead to a perception that the asset is more robust than is actually the case. In the last periodic review, the case was not fully established for our proposed increase in expenditure of around £300m. During this control period we have carried out extensive further analysis of the required activity and expenditure levels. This analysis supports a significant increase in renewals to address the previous under investment.