Major flooding near Rotherham

Network Rail’s £45 billion plan for a greener railway

Network Rail has announced the beginning of its five-year, £45.4 billion rail improvement plan which aims to deliver a simpler and greener railway to cope with the demands of climate change.

Train performance is also at the heart of Network Rail’s plans for CP7.

Andrew Haines, chief executive, said: “Delivering a better railway for passengers and freight users is at the heart of our new five-year investment plan.

“Tackling climate change, safely improving train performance, adapting and responding to changing commuter habits whilst managing an ageing infrastructure requires the whole industry to rally for the benefits of all rail users.”

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said:  “Our railways are at the heart of many people’s daily lives and getting us to where we need to be, whether that’s to family and friends, work, education or holiday destinations.

“That’s why the network must be fit for the future, with the resilience to handle extreme weather while offering the reliability and level of service our passengers deserve. I am confident the plan set out by Network Rail today will help keep our railways on track for the coming years.”

During CP7, Network Rail will invest around £2.8 billion in activities and technology to help the railway cope better with extreme weather and climate change.

Proposed projects include:

  • Increased investment in looking after thousands of miles of drains, cuttings and embankments to make them more weather resilient
  • Hundreds of key operational staff will attend Network Rail’s new ‘weather academy’ to help make them ‘amateur meteorologists’, better able to interpret forecasts and make better operation decisions such as when and where to slow trains in stormy conditions
  • More than 600,000 metres of drains will be built or rebuilt, redesigned or see increased maintenance to enable our railway to cope with much heavier rainfall and reduce flooding
  • Installing CCTV at high-risk flooding sites to enable better and faster response
  • Introducing new technology that will help us keep services running safely in difficult conditions, such as
    • GUSTO – that uses topography to better predict windspeeds distinguishing valleys, trees and buildings enabling trains to run at higher speeds during stormy weather
    • Precise ‘real-time’ world leading rainfall forecasting, detailing weather conditions every 500m that will link with asset condition data for even better train service management

Andrew continued: “Climate change is the biggest challenge our railway faces. We are responding to that challenge with a huge investment in making our railway more resilient and better performing for rail users during such events.

“We can never completely ‘weatherproof’ our railway, but we can be better prepared and mitigate the worst that Mother Nature throws at us, now, and into the future, to keep passengers and services safe and moving.”

CP7 spending

Alongside Network Rail’s pledge to adapt to climate change is its mission to improve the day-to-day running of passenger and freight services.

Projects that will target the improvement of train performance include:

  • Reducing the impact of external factors, including weather impact, fatalities, trespass and vandalism – one of the biggest causes of delays – by harnessing new technology
  • Reducing infrastructure failures with over 5,000 kms of track being targeted for replacement or heavy maintenance as well as over 3,000 sets of points (rail that moves enabling trains to switch tracks) and heavy investment in new signalling
  • Building the capability of the workforce with investment in training and new technology to improve decision making and cross-industry working
  • Improving timetables to remove bottlenecks, conflicts and unrealistic timings at and between stations
  • Faster recovery from incidents so fewer trains and customers are delayed when things happen

Andrew concluded: “Over the next five years we aim to re-join track and train with a new structure at the heart of our railway with a guiding mind, at arms-length from Government.

“This would create a simpler railway to better respond to the needs of rail users with its constituent parts joined up with common objectives and incentives, delivering for passengers and freights users.”

Image credit: Network Rail

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