Network Rail ramps up weather resilience following UK floods

The rail operator is developing new weather resilience and climate change adaptation plans for all of its routes following the floods that hit numerous services earlier this year.

Network Rail will work with the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Natural Resources Wales to improve flood risk management, with primary focused placed on the Western Route which bared the brunt of the extreme winter weather.

“The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is anticipated to increase in future years and this could impact on the performance of our network,” said Network Rail. “As a key infrastructure manager in Great Britain, we need to make our assets resilient to the weather and maintain the provision of rail services.”

The extreme weather of 2013/14 caused havoc for communities and businesses that use the Western train line that runs through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. The line had washed away entirely at Dawlish and Network Rail workers and contractors spent some 300,000 hours repairing the site, which eventually re-opened in April.

As a result, Network Rail devised a new ‘Strategic Crisis Management team’ which manages future risk from extreme weather. The new adaptation report will be fully drawn up for all Network Rail routes by the end of September and will be presented to Government to explain the actions being taken to increase weather resilience.

Sustainability Report

The announcement comes as Network Rail today (6 August) posts record figures in terms of waste, energy and water reduction, in its 2013/14 Sustainability Report. (Scroll down for full report).

In the report, the train operator updates its progress in delivering the objectives of the Sustainable Development Strategy, which it established last May in a bit to improve its environmental and social impacts.

Commenting on the report, Network Rail’s head of sustainable business strategy Iain Groark said: “Whether it’s providing safe and weather resilient rail services, how we select materials for our £5bn annual infrastructure investment or the continued development of our diverse graduate programme, sustainability is fundamental to achieving our vision to develop a better railway for a better Britain.”

Mitigating climate change

The report highlights that 86% of all waste was diverted from landfill last year; CO2 emissions from energy used in owned buildings and infrastructure have been reduced by 18% against a 2006/7 baseline; and water consumption dropped to 1.5 million m3, costing the firm around £2.9 m – down from £3.2m in 2012/13.

A standout figure this year is waste from Network Rail’s offices and training centres, with 97% of waste diverted from landfill – well above the initial 2013/14 target of 60%. Eighty-one per cent of construction waste managed by contractors was also diverted, along with 61% of waste from train stations.

Total carbon emissions generated in 2013/14 stood at 275,936 tonnes CO2e, another significant drop from the 303,078 generated a year earlier. Network Rail’s annual energy spend is just north of £330m.

“Through better management of our energy, we will play a part in delivering the UK’s carbon emission reduction targets and mitigate climate change,” reads the report.

REPORT: Network Rail’s 2013/14 Sustainability Update

Luke Nicholls

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