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The eye of the storm: boosting railway resilience in the UK

Source(s):  Railway Technology (Railway Technology)

By Adele Berti


Although the UK rail industry’s attention is currently focused on the impact of coronavirus outbreak, the rail network recently came out of a season of bad weather and floods that battered lines across the country and caused extensive damage. 


At the moment, Network Rail says it is relying on the most sophisticated weather forecasting technologies to ensure it catches bad weather before it’s too late. These include the company’s own Weather Service, a Flood Warning database, river-level monitoring equipment and the Washout and Earthflow Risk Mapping system, which “identifies earthworks that are likely to be flooded and assesses the risk of this happening”. 


On the prevention front, upcoming rail lines like Crossrail, HS2 and Rail Baltica are working to make their new networks resilient before starting operations. Rail Baltica has even published a study that assessed the impact of climate change on its upcoming network. Here, the operator found that floods might increase in certain areas close to rivers and there will be high chances of multi-hazard risks in the coming decades.


Ultimately, the success of these strategies will largely depend on forecasting and how far in advance operators will be able to prepare for incoming storms. Although said in the context of rising sea levels, these words by Network Rail senior programme manager David Lovell still ring true: “The only thing that we can do at the moment is, when there is a severe storm event, we will increase our inspections,” he told Future Rail last year. “We have a traffic light system that signals risks, so if we’re getting all this information and it’s high risk, we will stop trains running.”

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  • Publication date 12 May 2020

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