Network Rail to spend £2.8bn to cope with extreme weather

Network Rail is to spend nearly £3bn protecting the nation’s railways from its “biggest challenge” of the climate crisis and extreme weather.

The body, which presides over Great Britain’s rail network, will spend £2.8bn over five years on initiatives including making miles of drains more weather resilient and training staff to be “amateur meteorologists”.

The new investment forms part of Network Rail’s £45.4bn five-year investment plan and comes as the rail network looks to better cope with extreme weather, with the recent storms causing major disruption for passengers.

The investment will be used across a range of measures. These include increased investment in looking after thousands of miles of drains, cuttings and embankments to make them more weather resilient; recruiting almost 400 extra drainage engineers to better handle intense rainfall; and training hundreds of staff to become ‘amateur meteorologists’ at its new Weather Academy.

Network Rail is also installing more “smart” movement sensors to cuttings and embankments giving early warning of any changes enabling engineers to react; and installing CCTV at high-risk flooding sites to enable better and faster response.

The firm will also introduce new technology that uses topography to better predict wind speeds and a rainfall forecast, detailing weather conditions every 500m that will link with asset condition data for better train service management

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This includes emissions from its own operations, such as industrial and non-industrial sites.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Climate change is the biggest challenge our railway faces.

“The extreme weather of the past year that has seen an unprecedented 14 named storms, has taken its toll on our railway – with experts predicting more of the same to come. 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.”

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.”

It was revealed last year that plans to electrify the UK’s railways fall so far short of UK net zero targets that it would take 240 years at current rates to reach the goal.

In November last year, The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) shared a new framework to help the rail industry make progress on environmental and social sustainability.

Climate crisisInnovationNet zeroNewsSocial sustainabilityTechTransport

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