Climate change is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the rail industry. But, with climate change comes extreme weather events which can cause huge disruption to the UK’s rail network.
Whether it be extreme heat in the summer or stormy conditions in the winter, extreme weather and changing weather systems are a huge challenge to the rail industry all year round. These issues aren’t going away any time soon and it is therefore essential that the industry does all it can to minimise disruption and makes the network more weather resilient.
In this regard, there are numerous technological advancements being made overseas in the field of weather resilience that can serve as great sources of inspiration as the UK’s rail industry looks to protect infrastructure from extreme weather.
Network Rail’s Seasons and Climate Specialist for Transport Modes Dr Brian Haddock explained: “We haven’t got billions and billions to invest in the railways, nobody has, certainly in this current climate.
“So, resilience to me is being seasonally agnostic. This is essentially saying we’re not going to be resilient to every extreme weather event… but what we do know is that we’ve often run services when perhaps we shouldn’t have done… and what we’re trying to do is become more resilient so that the timetable is true to the impact we are going to experience.
“Probabilistic forecasting is something that the Met Office has been looking at for some time now, we don’t actually use it currently under Network Rail weather services… but this gives us a probabilistic idea of what different weather will look like over a longer period of time.
“Often it isn’t actually the extreme weather that catches us out, it’s the change between the weather systems. Even though we do all this assurance, there’s still the element of surprise.
“There’s are a lot of [technological] things in the mix and a lot of them are being tested quite vigorously.”
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