Network Rail ramps up spending on protecting railway from climate change

Network Rail has announced it is ramping up spending on protecting the railway from climate change and extreme weather.

The Government-owned company, responsible for Britain’s railway infrastructure, said it will invest around £2.8 billion over the next five years in relation to these issues.

This will fund measures such as making embarkments more resilient, recruiting nearly 400 additional drainage engineers, training hundreds of operational staff to better interpret weather forecasts, and installing CCTV at sites with a high risk of flooding.

Recent incidents include on the Chiltern Main Line near Bicester in Oxfordshire in January, on the West Coast Main Line between Coventry and Rugby in February, and in Telford, Shropshire last month.

England saw a record amount of rainfall in the 18 months to March.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “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.

“We can never completely weatherproof our railway, but we can be better prepared and mitigate the worst that Mother Nature throws at us – now and into the future – to keep passengers and services safe and moving.”

It will spend £19.3 billion on replacing old assets with new, as well as investing in other capital expenditure projects such as digital signalling.

Some £12.6 billion will be spent on maintenance, £5.3 billion on support functions such as timetabling and IT, £4.4 billion on operations such as signalling, and £1.8 billion will be put in a so-called risk fund to be used for unforeseen events.

The majority of Network Rail’s income will come from grants from the UK and Scottish Governments (£29.8 billion).

It will receive £13.8 billion in track access charges from train operators, and £1.7 billion commercial income such as from retail and property.

Mr Haines said: “Train performance has been suffering and the industry must come together and make this, and tackling climate change, our main focus.

“Our role is to deliver a safe railway that people can rely on, whatever the weather, with trains that turn up and arrive at their destination on time, and where passengers have confidence they are in safe hands.

“This is what we must deliver daily and what we should, and will, be held to account for.”

“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.”

Network Rail said taking inflation into account, its spending over the next five years will be £42.8 billion in real terms compared with £43.0 billion in the previous five years.

Enhancements are funded separately and not included in this plan.

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