Network Rail launches resilience taskforce following heatwave
Image credit: Network Rail
Network Rail is to launch a new taskforce led by independent experts to investigate and make recommendations on how the railway can develop its approach to resilience during hot weather, following this week’s unprecedented heatwave.
The review will consider four key areas, each led by an independent expert in their field. Three of these areas will be focused on gathering insights from other countries and making comparisons with international rail networks that are more used to dealing with extreme heat and fluctuations in temperature.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “The weather we’ve experienced this week has put a huge amount of pressure on our infrastructure, our staff and our passengers, and with extreme weather events becoming more frequent as our climate continues to change, we’ve got to pull out all the stops to make our railway as resilient as possible.
“That’s why I’ve decided to commission this taskforce, spearheaded by leading global experts, whose considerable experience in their fields both in the UK and across the world will arm us with the guidance we need to make our railway resilient in the face of climate change for generations to come.”
Dame Julia Slingo FRS, former chief scientist at the Met Office and a world-renowned expert in climatology, will examine the likelihood of more frequent extreme hot weather events in the UK and how high-quality, detailed and timely weather forecasting can be maximised by Network Rail to mitigate the impact of heat on its infrastructure. Dame Julia recently led a weather action task force focused on equipping Network Rail with a better understanding of the risk of rainfall to its infrastructure.
Sir Douglas Oakervee will draw on 60 years of experience in engineering to investigate options to ensure the railway infrastructure can continue to function safely and reliably during very hot weather. This work will particularly focus on the performance of track and overhead line equipment as they are the two most common causes of delays and disruption in hot weather. Sir Douglas has served as chair of Crossrail and HS2 and is a former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Simon Lane, former managing director and CEO of railways in Melbourne and New South Wales respectively, will explore operational standards, policies and practices which could allow services to continue to operate safely and without highly limiting speed restrictions in extreme heat. Lane has knowledge from his work in Australia of the challenges that railways face in very high temperatures, as well as the challenge of running railways in a climate where there is a wide variation between the highest and coldest temperatures. He previously led a review for the government of Victoria, Australia, following a period of extreme weather in 2009.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent transport watchdog Transport Focus, will examine how Network Rail communicates with passengers in the run-up to and during periods of extreme weather, as well as in its planning for disruptive events. Smith has led Transport Focus for over 20 years as it took on representing bus and road users as well as rail passengers. He has contributed to recommendations to the rail industry and the government on how the pandemic affected rail passengers and the Williams-Shapps rail reform white paper, among other topics.
Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain's railway infrastructure, comprising 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, and thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. It also runs 20 of Britain's largest train stations.
Earlier this week, as heatwave temperatures rose to their 40°C peak, transportation was among key public services disrupted by the exceptional heat. Railway and Tube services were reduced and those trains running were slowed down amid fears of rails buckling in the heat.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.