Climate Adaption and Rail Resilience

Extreme weather events of many types regularly affect railway infrastructure and the provision of train services across the UK.

If the UK is due to have hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters in the future, how will this affect the railway network and how can we adapt to these changes?

These are the two key questions that lead our research.

Resilience is the ability of a system, the railway network, to reliably resist and recover from the effects of external disrupting factors such as weather and climate change. This includes having sufficient redundancy to absorb the impact and recover quickly, resuming normal operations; or being able to reroute and redeploy workers and equipment to make repairs wherever required.

The physical resilience of rail infrastructure is a topic that has been investigated here at BCRRE for over ten years. By improving our understanding of the effects of extreme weather on rail infrastructure we can begin to develop ways of redesigning and adapting the railways to resist the impact of weather, creating reliable railway infrastructure for the future. The operational resilience of train services in the UK focuses particularly on investigating delay propagations. If one train is affected by one incident and is delayed, this can affect the whole network.

Research areas include:

  • TRaCCA – investigating the risks associated with extreme weather events and climate change and the impact these will have on our railway networks in the future.
  • Rail Adapt project – developed a comprehensive adaptation framework, to support the rail industry in improving their processes for adapting its infrastructure.
  • SIRMA – to develop risk models, mitigation, and resilience-based decision support tools utilising a systems of systems approach. This ensures that transport infrastructure along Atlantic coastlines is resilient under future climates to a variety of fast-acting (e.g., storm) and slow-acting (e.g., corrosion) hazards.

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