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Network Rail: Unpredictable weather & landslip prevention

The embankment at Killiecrankie received some well needed TLC over the last couple of few weeks, as Network Rail completed work to protect and stabilise it following a landslip in July.

Over 50 tonnes of mud and vegetation was removed from the track and slope after heavy rainfall on July 11th, causing water to flow onto the railway, consequently triggering the landslip.

The line had to close whilst specialist engineers assessed the extent of the damage, and the track was then cleared and re-opened at a restricted speed on July 12th.

Damage prevention is now a key priority and so a wall of gabion baskets have been arranged at the bottom of the slope to help stabilise it.

Erosion netting has also been laid to avoid any further washout and to encourage vegetation regrowth, by combining the top layer of soil together to prevent deterioration on the slope surface.

After successfully completing the work, the speed restriction was lifted and services are now returning to normal on the Highland Mainline between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl.

Network Rail’s Project Manager for the works, Thomas Podger, said “we have an extensive programme of proactive works to prevent these types of incidents from occurring, but increasingly, extreme weather events are having a significant impact on our railway.”

Unpredictable weather patterns, encouraged by climate change, have sparked a number of issues across the country and Scientists and climate organisations are warning they could become the new norm.

Alerts of potential flooding were issued in Scotland in late July, and the Northeast saw the worst of the weather as thunder and lighting was spotted throughout the country after a spell of warm temperatures.

Firefighters had to pump water from several homes that were flooded in Angus, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth, and Aberdeenshire.

Likewise, London encountered heavy downpours and thunderstorms which triggered severe flash flooding across parts of the city.

Forecasters predict as much as 4 inches of rain could fall in some places, and the Met Office has announced yellow warnings for thunderstorms across much of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England, and north Wales from the early hours of Friday until Saturday evening.

As a result, Network Rail is investing heavily in Scotland’s Railway to improve the condition of earthworks and drainage systems.

The Project Manager added, “when this incident happened, our team responded quickly to initially ensure the safety of the cutting and get the railway cleared and re-opened to minimise disruption for passengers.”

He continued, “we then followed up with additional works to stabilise and protect the cutting and improve the drainage in the area to reduce the risk from heavy rainfall in the future.”

Between 2014 and 2019, more than £120m was invested in earthworks, drainage and bridge strengthening projects across Scotland; and in 2019, a £149m fund was set up for further improvements, set to continue until 2024.

These ventures include over £30m to develop the infrastructure’s resistance to extreme rainfall, £13m aimed at known flood sites, and £25m invested in vegetation management initiatives.

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