Climate change and resilience report outlines future rail challenges

Climate change and resilience report outlines future rail challenges

Published 28 January 2022 | Average read time
3 min read
Stories Environment Industry-leading

A Network Rail report has outlined the risks to Britain’s railway posed by climate change – and the measures needed to improve resilience.

The third climate adaptation report, published this month in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), sets out work done from 2016 to 2021 on climate change and resilience. It also discusses actions for the next five years and provides a comprehensive quantitative risk assessment of assets and regional weather and climate change risks.

The impact of the changing climate has been increasingly evident in recent years, with the railway suffering more frequent and more severe extreme weather events.

Weather trends also point towards an increased frequency of extreme drier periods followed by prolonged and extreme wet weather in the coming years.

These factors accelerate deterioration of earthworks and put pressure on drainage systems and other rail infrastructure, increasing the likelihood of critical coping thresholds being exceeded.

This report has been prepared in line with sector specific guidance provided by Defra and is broadly aligned with the common surface transport report structure that was agreed in collaboration with National Highways, Transport for London (TfL), HS2 and HS1.

Aerial view of a landslip at Holywood
Landslip at Holywood

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Climate change is having an undeniable impact on our infrastructure and the effects are forecast to be greater still in the coming years. More infrastructure failures would mean delays for passengers and our freight partners who move thousands of tonnes of goods across the country by rail.

“As the greenest form of large-scale transport, its critical we can continue delivering low carbon travel to customers. While there is no silver bullet to making our railway more resilient to the effect of Climate Change, the action plan outlined in this report demonstrates the progress we are committed to making.”

Science Based Targets

We became the first railway company in the world to set Science Based Targets, backed by United Nations, to help limit global warming to the most-ambitious target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We’ve made significant strides towards bolstering rail’s position as the greenest form of public transport and to transport goods across the country since unveiling our Environmental Sustainability Strategy in late 2020.

For the first time, this report brings together advanced work being carried out across Network Rail, including the Weather Task Force responsible for delivery of the recommendations from Lord Robert Mair and Dame Julia Slingo in their independent reports, to provide a wide ranging, integrated and comprehensive approach. The report covers England, Wales and Scotland.

Click on the gallery to see landslips around the railway.

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