Network Rail to Invest £2.8bn in Climate Resilience

Network Rail has announced plans to invest around 2.8 billion GBP in activities and technology to help cope with extreme weather and climate change.

This is part of its five-year 45.4 billion GBP improvement plan for Control Period 7 (CP7) which recently commenced with the end of Control Period 6 (CP6) on 31 March 2024.

The plan for CP7 now aims to deliver a more sustainable and more reliable railway that is resilient to the challenges posed by climate change.

An aerial view of a landslip on the railway
An aerial view of a landslip on the railway
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail said:

“Delivering a better railway for passengers and freight users is at the heart of our new five-year investment plan. Tackling climate change, safely improving train performance, and adapting and responding to changing commuter habits whilst managing an ageing infrastructure requires the whole industry to rally for the benefits of all rail users.

“Whilst there are challenges and opportunities ahead, our mission is constant - we’re here to connect people and goods with where they need to be. The railway is part of the fabric of our everyday lives and has been for generations. It provides essential services to society, underpinning economic growth and our plans will support that over the next five years – a period that will mark the railway’s bi-centenary.”

Over the next five years to 2029, Network Rail’s 2.8 billion GBP investment in climate resilience will include building, rebuilding, redesigning or maintaining thousands of miles of drains, cuttings and embankments to make them more weather-resilient.

The infrastructure manager will also recruit almost 400 extra drainage engineers who will increase the care and maintenance of drainage to better handle increased and intense rainfall.

Major flooding near Rotherham in South Yorkshire
Major flooding near Rotherham in South Yorkshire

Meanwhile, hundreds of operational staff will attend Network Rail’s new ‘weather academy’ to help make them ‘amateur meteorologists’ who can interpret forecasts and make decisions such as when and where to slow trains in stormy conditions.

What’s more, Network Rail will install more ‘smart’ movement sensors to cuttings and embankments to give early warning of any changes before a full landslip. Additional CCTV will also be installed at high-risk flooding sites to enable better and faster response

New technologies will also be introduced to help keep services running safely in challenging conditions. For example:

  • GUSTO uses topography to better predict windspeeds distinguishing valleys, trees and buildings, enabling trains to run at higher speeds during stormy weather.
  • Precise ‘real-time’ world-leading rainfall forecasting details weather conditions every 500m. This links with asset condition data for better train service management.
Haines continued:

“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.”

Alongside its focus on climate change, throughout CP7, Network Rail will also spend:

  • 19.3 billion GBP on renewals, with old assets being replaced with new technologies such as digital signalling
  • 12.6 billion GBP on maintenance of assets
  • 5.3 billion GBP on support functions such as safety & standards, timetabling, IT and HR
  • 4.4 billion GBP on operations like signalling, stations and network controls

Meanwhile, 1.8 billion GBP has been dedicated to its ‘risk fund’ to cope with unforeseen events.

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.”

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