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Climate change adaptation

Climate change could increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather and we are planning now in order to provide a safe, reliable network in the future

We work closely with many governmental and specialist organisations to prepare our railway for the climate changes projected over the next few years, decades and beyond.

Our planning is based on data from UK Climate Projections, which incorporates sophisticated scientific methods provided by the Met Office to suggest project climatic changes – all the way to 2080. This allows us to plan very specifically, for very far in the future.

Flooding at Fulwell

The frequent and severe flooding in recent years, particularly 2015/2016, has focussed attention on the need for key infrastructure to be resilient to current and future weather extremes. In response, the government and our regulators are seeking assurance that we understand the risks of our changing climate and are acting to enhance resilience and adapt to the impacts, both now and in the future.

Since the introduction of the Adaptation Reporting Power for Defra under the Climate Change Act 2008 we have produced an Adaptation Report for Defra every 5 years summarising our progress towards understanding the potential impacts of climate change on the performance and safety of the rail network, and the actions taken to increase our resilience. The latest version can be accessed below.

Adaptation reports 2021

There’s no such thing as certainty about the long-term impact of climate change on Britain’s weather conditions, but we’re working hard to get it right by using the most up-to-date technical data and expertise. We are developing technical guidance and tools to support our staff and contractors with understanding and managing the impacts of climate change across the railway.

Weather Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation (WRCCA) plans

Asset Management WRCCA plan

Running our railway requires the effective management of a wide range of assets in all sorts of locations and weathers.  The national framework for doing this is provided by our Chief Engineer’s Team in our central Technical Authority who set our technical vision, strategy, policy and controls such as design standards. To help us understand and manage the current weather and future climate risks to our assets and the services they have developed the Asset Management Weather Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Summary report and supporting documents

Route WRCCA plans

Network Rail is divided into eight routes*. We’ve developed route-specific weather resilience plans that explain our understanding of how weather can affect our infrastructure at a more targeted, local level. Initially published in 2014 covering Control Period 5, these plans are being updated for Control Period 6 (2019 – 2024).

Route weather resilience plans 2019 – 2024

Route weather resilience plans 2014 – 2019

*We have undergone a restructure which has increased the number of Routes and Regions in which we operate. The plans are based on our old structure and will be updated over time.

Tomorrow’s Railway and Climate Change Adaptation report

We contributed to the Tomorrow’s Railway and Climate Change Adaptation (TRaCCA) research programme. The outcome was published in May 2016 and outlines recommended actions and opportunities to enable Britain’s rail industry to respond and adapt to the potential impact of projected climate change and extreme weather.

The programme’s overall objectives were to enhance and share knowledge within Britain’s railway industry on the following topic areas:

  • future projected changes to the UK climate and weather
  • potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather on Britain’s railway
  • actions already in place/other actions that should be put in place to respond and adapt to these potential impacts over the short, medium and long term
  • additional resources required to enable Britain’s rail industry to take cost-effective action in the event of climate change.

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