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Network Rail: Increasing resilience to flooding

Case study on Network Rail: Increasing resilience to flooding


Network Rail have implemented a range of flood resilience measures on vulnerable lines in the South West. Network Rail’s asset portfolio includes over 10,000 route miles of tracks, 43,000 bridges and 6,000 slope miles of earthworks. There are 150 miles of defended railway around the coast. A variety of actors within Network Rail are working closely with customers, industry partners and key other stakeholders to fully understand the impact of climate change on the railway and mitigate and adapt the network accordingly to respond effectively to the threats, and also opportunities.


Network Rail are using its historic data on weather-related disruption to train services, past extreme events and UKCIP projections to identify and understand impacts across a range of priority areas, such as flooding impacts on long-life assets. In particular, Network Rail and the rail industry are focused on how the current and future climate will affect the ability to achieve and deliver:

• a safe railway; • a highly reliable railway; • increased capacity; • value for money; • a ‘predict and prevent’ ethos.

Key messages and learning outcomes

It is important that asset renewal cycles and the timing of decisions are considered as part of long term asset management strategies. Shorter life assets (such as tracks and ICT) can be more easily made resistant and resilient to future weather patterns owing to their having a relatively short cycle of wholesale renewal. Long life assets (for example, coastal defences and embankments) are not normally expected to be replaced wholesale and may require works to provide enhanced resistance and resilience.

Whole life, whole system costing must form the basis of any cost benefit analysis and assessment of the level and distribution of investment necessary for railway resilience measures. Indeed some decisions may not need to be made for years or decades.

Adaptation outcomes

Preliminary recommendations for asset management policy and planning for Control Periods CP5–CP8 decades 2010s, 2020s, 2030s, 2040s.

A specification for a tool to enable the rail industry to evaluate policy options (Adaptation Policy Evaluation Tool) for adaptation and weather resilience for priority and other topic areas.

An understanding of the resistance and resilience of railway assets to current extreme weather events and to future climatic conditions, needs to lead to the assessment of the railway as a whole system. The development of a generic method for assessment of the future impact of climate change, will permit the development of options for managing railway assets in the longer term.

Future work

Route-based climate change vulnerability maps.

An interactive mapping visualisation tool.

Adaptation Policy Evaluation Tools for the priority and other topic areas for use by the rail industry.

Material for the Government reporting in detail.

Recommendations for geographically-based standards development and further research requirements to support this.

Priority climate change impacts for the whole GB rail industry for the four decades 2010s, 2020s, 2030s, 2040s.

A seminar to cover the findings of the research.

Guidance to inform the rail industry of likely climate change issues and how they will be dealt with.


John Dora, Network Rail, 40 Melton Street, London NW1 2EE

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