Interim report on fatal crash warns climate impacts on the rail network are "accelerating faster than our assumptions"
A combination of escalating climate impacts and a reliance on Victorian infrastructure mean Network Rail fears landslips like the one which caused August's fatal train crash in Stonehaven are set to occur with increasing regularity.
An interim report by Network Rail on the resilience of the UK's rail infrastructure, commissioned by the Department of Transport in the aftermath of the crash, was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport last week and stated that the effect of climate change "is accelerating faster than our assumptions".
Severe weather events connected to the changing climate mean that railways - and particularly the embankments which surround them - are increasingly facing both hotter and colder, wetter weather, making landslips more likely.
"Most of our infrastructure slopes are in excess of 150 years old and are not comparable to the levels of capability and resistance that are provided by modern engineered slopes," the report states. "The rapid failure of cutting slopes is difficult to predict particularly when failures are triggered by intensive local rainfall."
Though a £3m project to protect the most at-risk earthworks around the UK rail network has begun, the report says it was "simply not economically viable to strengthen all sub-standard infrastructure".
"Despite continuing improvement, we expect there will still be earthwork failures as a result of challenging weather," it continued. "What we can and will do is continue to evolve our application of technology and refine our operational procedures to manage their safety impact and protect our passengers, colleagues and members of the public."
An Earthworks Management Taskforce led by Lord Robert Mair will now explore ways in which the UK's rail network can be better protected from landslips in the years ahead.
Driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62 were killed by the train derailment on 12 August after heavy rain caused a landslip outside of Stonehaven station.
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