Network Rail launches hot weather resilience taskforce

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Network Rail is launching a taskforce to investigate and make recommendations on how the railway can develop its approach to resilience during hot weather.

Network Rail

The review will consider four key areas, each led by an independent expert in their field. Three of these 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.

In a statement, 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 renowned climatologist 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.

Sir Douglas Oakervee, who has served as chair of Crossrail and HS2 and is a former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, will investigate options to ensure the railway infrastructure can continue to function safely and reliably during very hot weather. Network Rail said this work will particularly focus on the performance of track and overhead line equipment, which are the two most common causes of delays and disruption in hot weather.

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 speed restrictions in extreme heat.

Finally, 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.