Building infrastructure fit for a changing climate
Our weather and climate is changing. In 2015 the UK had the hottest July ever on record, and the mildest winter since 1910. We were also affected by 9 storms in a 4 month period which caused widespread disruption to businesses, our infrastructure, communities, individuals and our economy.
Network Rail is not immune to the effects of these extreme weather events. Flooding, landslips, heatwaves and cold snaps all impact on our ability to run our business and service our customers.
In Infrastructure Programmes the rail infrastructure we build today needs to be fit for the climate of the future to be able to operate a sustainable business that is safe, high performing and provides an efficient and reliable service to our customers.
But how do you build infrastructure today that will cope with an ever changing climate? Thameslink Programme aimed to tackle this difficult question through a number of climate change interventions.
Climate change – a global threat
It is well documented that man-made carbon emissions has led to increasing global temperatures and climate change. Since pre-industrial time our carbon emissions have increased by 40% and global temperatures have risen by 1°C. As a country we are already feeling the effects of climate change through extreme weather events such as wide spread flooding and heat waves, which has had significant impacts on our economy, businesses, infrastructure, communities and individuals.
Climate change is one of the top ten global risks for 2016 (World Economic Forum). To tackle this risk global leaders agreed at COP21 in December 2015 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) to limit the rise of temperatures to well below 2°C, with efforts to hold it to 1.5°C. For the first time in history this agreement has highlighted the global importance of reducing global temperatures to tackle climate change.
The role of Infrastructure Projects in mitigating the effects of climate change on the railway
The railway network has been significantly affected by severe weather conditions including wind, snow, rainfall, lightning, heat and cold. Climate change projections suggest we will be entering a period with increasing average and maximum daily temperatures, drier summers, wetter winters, sea level rises and increased storminess. With these weather changes brings an increase in flooding, earth slip and coastal storm surges, heat causes soil desiccation and track buckling, high winds result in debris falling onto track and snow and cold weather result in frozen points and blocked routes. Such weather events can cause significant disruption to the operation of train services and damage to rail infrastructure.
Over the last eight years the average annual costs attributed to weather impacts for the whole of the network was over £50 million, which is set to rise to £80 million per annum. In terms of delay minutes, weather and seasonal events on average caused 12% of all delays.
Infrastructure Projects (IP) is delivering the biggest investment in the railway since the Victorian era. When we design and build iconic new stations, signalling upgrades, electrification, track renewals and bridges the investment, design and construction decisions we make have an impact on the reliability of our assets to withstand future weather events. To maintain a resilient railway we need to understand the vulnerability of our rail assets to weather events and impacts of climate change and invest in making them more resilience to future weather events. If we fail to invest, design and build assets that are resilient to weather and climate change the level of performance costs, consequential costs of repairing the rail infrastructure and wider socio-economic impacts such as delayed services to our passengers will continue to rise.
Therefore to support the climate change challenge that faces the rail industry and our business Infrastructure Programmes has committed to:
“Understand the long term impact of climate change and innovate beyond Network Rail Engineering Design standards to eradicate service disruption caused by weather events.”