Climate Change Adaptation in Railway Infrastructure

Many of the disruptions to the rail network are caused by the effects of weather. Flooding of parts of the network, landslides and track buckling are only some of the numerous problems to the rail infrastructure caused by weather. 2012 was the wettest year on record for England and as a result the whole rail network was subjected to costly delays and cancellations of services. As a result of climate change such events are expected to occur more regularly and more intensely in the future and this could have wide-ranging negative impacts on the UK rail industry. Infrastructure owners and operators should, therefore, adapt their approach to asset management to these changes in climate, which have already started to crystallise in reality. Adapting asset management procedures to climate change is still an under-researched topic. A clear, comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy has not yet been developed by any railway infrastructure owner and operator anywhere in the world.

What is currently missing in the railway infrastructure is a comprehensive methodology which can help asset managers within the rail industry give answers to the questions: “How should we prioritise asset management investments, accounting for climate change?”; “What changes in climate should we adapt to?”; “When should we act?”; “How can we account for the huge uncertainties associated with climate change predictions and how can these affect our future investments?”. This research gap is addressed in an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) research project carried out between University of Surrey and Network Rail. Through enabling more informed asset management decisions, this research will ultimately improve the current methods of whole-life costing in Network Rail. Optimising the investments for improving weather and climate resilience of the network, the outputs of the research project have the potential of achieving significant cost savings as well as increased reliability of the network.

This work will be presented in the RRUKA Annual Conference on 21st November at Kings Place in London. It will provide a showcase of the most state-of-the-art rail research carried out in the UK and will allow good networking and building relationships.