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Network Rail Launches Resilience Taskforce After Heatwave

3 min

c. Network Rail
As Network Rail announced the launch of a new taskforce led by independent experts to investigate and make recommendations on how the railway can develop its approach to resilience during heatwaves, Quadrant Transport looks at how to mitigate risks following last week’s unprecedented heatwave. 

After temperatures in the UK soared to unprecedented levels last week due to climate change, Network Rail has outlined a four-pronged approach to the independent review. 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 heatwaves and fluctuations in temperature.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, highlighted the importance of looking to other countries for advice on mitigating risks: “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.”

Adding to this, he added: “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.”

International approach to mitigate climate change impacts through sharing best practice

Dame Julia Slingo FRS, former chief scientist at the Met Office and expert in climatology, will examine the likelihood of more frequent extreme heatwave 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. 

Sir Douglas Oakervee will draw on his 60 years of experience in engineering to investigate options to ensure the railway infrastructure can continue to function safely and reliably during scorching 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. 

Transport Focus to ensure passenger safety is maximised

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. 

Mr Smith has more than 20 years’ experience leading Transport Focus 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, amongst other topics.

Using different voices from different companies and sharing best international practices will put the UK rail infrastructure in a beneficial position to cope with growing extreme weather events.