Britain's railway is facing a dramatic increase in the cost of dealing with extreme weather over coming decades unless it starts taking pre-emptive action now, according to new research released by RSSB today.
Climate change is forecast to have a significant and damaging impact on the railway network, through a combination of higher average temperatures; rising sea levels; more frequent floods and heat waves; wetter winters and dryer summers. The "Tomorrow's Railway and Climate Change Adaptation report", prepared in close collaboration with Network Rail, predicts that, without mitigation, climate change will present a significant increased risk to the railway network, to passengers and railway workers.
The rail industry has already introduced wide-ranging measures to combat the effects of climate change, said Mark Phillips, RSSB's Interim Managing Director. But more investment and support will be needed to maintain an effective rail network, which is prepared for the potentially damaging impact of extreme weather.
The report presents a number of recommendations to improve the network's resilience including; improved mapping of vulnerable assets, accurate logging of the location of incidents and the weather, revising rail industry standards to take account of future climate predictions and developing a 'journey availability' metric to assess the long-term availability across UK transport networks during extreme weather.
The project has developed our understanding of the scale of the challenge and helped us to shape long-term investment plans for the infrastructure, said Network Rail Principal Engineer, Caroline Lowe. It is clear that there is an immediate imperative for government agencies, infrastructure operators and transport providers to work together. NR is committed to implementing many of the recommendations of the research and collaboratively working to deliver a resilient railway service to customers today and in the future.
We found strong evidence that Britain's railway will be affected by changes in weather conditions caused by climate change, said climate change expert and project team member John Dora. By improving understanding of where the network is most vulnerable and by taking action now, the future impact of climate change can be significantly reduced.