Rail network announces £45 billion climate plan

The UK rail network is to invest £45 billion to cope with the impact of climate change on its infrastructure.

Network Rail has announced the start of its five-year, £45.4 billion rail improvement plan aimed at what it described as delivering a simpler, better, greener railway that provides the best level of train performance possible and that’s more geared-up than ever before to cope with the extremes of climate change.

Its CEO, Andrew Haines, explained: “Delivering a better railway for passengers and freight users is at the heart of our new five-year investment plan. Tackling climate change, safely improving train performance, adapting and responding to changing commuter habits whilst managing an ageing infrastructure requires the whole industry to rally for the benefits of all rail users.

“Whilst there are challenges and opportunities ahead, our mission is constant – we’re here to connect people and goods with where they need to be. The railway is part of the fabric of our everyday lives and has been for generations. It provides essential services to society, underpinning economic growth and our plans will support that over the next five years – a period that will mark the railway’s bi-centenary.”

Over the five years to 2029, Network Rail will invest around £2.8 billion in “activities and technology” that will help it better cope with extreme weather and climate change, which will help deliver a more reliable and better performing railway.

Examples include:

  • Increased investment in looking after thousands of miles of drains, cuttings and embankments to make them more weather resilient.
  • Recruiting almost 400 extra drainage engineers who will increase the care and maintenance of our drainage assets to be able to better handle increased and intense rainfall.
  • More than 600,000 metres of drains will be built or rebuilt, redesigned or see increased maintenance to enable our railway to cope with much heavier rainfall and reduce flooding.
  • Targeting over 20,000 cuttings or embankments for attention, with over 300 miles being strengthened through renewal and refurbishment and over 900 miles seeing planned maintenance.

Andrew added: “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.”