Railway tracks through the remote Scottish Highlands

How rail can respond to climate challenges

Yesterday saw the publication of Scotland’s Climate Ready Plan, which lays out how the railway can stay resilient to climate challenges in the future.

The plan was published jointly by Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail, and will inform infrastructure developments over the course of the next five years. Outlining how the railway can be improved to cope with climate challenges, the plan identifies areas for direct infrastructure investment, as well as the introduction of climate science and adaptation capabilities.

Network Rail Scotland’s Director of Engineering and Asset Management, Alan Ross, commented:

“We know that our climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, and that this is having an impact on Scotland’s railway.

“In our current climate – which is already warmer and wetter – we know that extreme weather events can impact our railway in a way that causes disruption for our customers.

“Our plan will look at how we can implement new and improved climate science and adaptation capabilities that will strengthen our decision-making processes and help us manage our changing climate in the future.”

Groundwork will also be laid for the development of a longer-term adaptation strategy for the ways that the railway can manage the risks that come with the ever-changing climate.

Overall, investment worth £1.9 billion will be invested into infrastructure renewals over the next five years, with more than £400 million of this contributing towards resilience against extreme weather and future changes to the climate. Covered by this funding is more than £100 million for earthworks, £100 million on lineside infrastructure such as drainage, and over £40 million for structures like bridges and tunnels.

David Lister, ScotRail Safety and Sustainability Director, added:

“Our vision is to deliver a safe, sustainable, inclusive, and accessible railway for Scotland.

“Climate resilience is a strategic priority for Scotland’s railway, and this plan will keep track and train together to ensure Scotland’s Railway is adapting to the impacts of climate change while targeting actions that enable the continued safe operation of the railway and reduce the disruption climate change can cause.”

Investment through the Climate Ready Plan will build on progress that has already been made over recent years, including the establishment of the first 24/7 weather desk for British railways, which works to analyse the real-time impacts of extreme weather conditions on the railway. Remote monitoring equipment is also being deployed in Scotland to give early warnings of any potential issues.


Image credit: iStock

Video credit: Network Rail Scotland


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