Glance at the headlines on any given day and you’ll see at least half a dozen significant drivers of change, all of which have the potential to transform our lives. These could include:

  • climate change and extreme weather events
  • moving to net-zero technologies, and finding the global resources they requirethe risk of AI and machine learning
  • accommodating different ways of working and retaining talent
  • global interconnectedness and supply chain insecurity.

We know that the future holds challenges, opportunities, and risks – what we need is a way to prepare for them. But these topics are dynamic, uncertain, ambiguous, and complex by definition. When complex trends make contact with complex systems – like Britain’s rail network – it pays to be agile, resilient, and prepared for change.

That’s why RSSB’s Futures Lab is putting so much effort into scanning, exploring, and modelling ideas on what the different potential futures for rail may be – to help increase the network’s resilience in the face of uncertainty.

In recognising this need, we’re part of a wider movement towards resilience. The Covid pandemic prompted wider consideration of future risks and resilience, but there are other risks to be aware of too, as the Government’s newly released 2023 Risk Register shows. These vary from the UK Government’s first Resilience Frameworks to efforts from organisations as varied as BSI, the National Infrastructure Commission, and the House of Lords Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning.

And RSSB isn’t new to this field. Over the last decade, we’ve carried out horizon scanning that’s been instrumental in improving rail asset utilisation, helped put the industry at the cutting edge of fatigue risk management, and started rail’s journey towards considering biosafety and future public health issues.

Now we’re using our skills to systematically and collaboratively examine potential problems, opportunities, and developments. This includes topics right at the margins of rail’s current thinking.

How we put our expertise to work

Our foresight and horizon scanning service enables you to understand key areas of change, explore different future outcomes, and enhance your organisation’s situational awareness. Our capabilities let us help you identify where to focus your adaptability and flexibility to meet future challenges – and even thrive.

Having identified potential risks and opportunities, we can also model their impact. Our systems modelling service develops risk models that are both resilient and responsive to rapid change. 

Our simulation and forecast-based modelling lets you test ‘what-if’ scenarios and explore the trade-offs between safety, performance, cost, and other whole-system factors.

We work collaboratively with the industry

We build ongoing strategic relationships throughout rail, working closely with industry groups such as the National Freight Safety Group, the Asset Integrity Group, and the Train Accident Risk Group.

Our key thematic programmes of work include weather resilience and climate change adaptation; digitisation; complex software and data; and automation and autonomous systems.

We offer a valuable extra resource to help rail organisations build their resilience. We share our resources and expertise and encourage you to get involved in our work, because the more widely we all share insight and understanding, the more resilient we can make rail.