I recently (November 2015), produced a technical programme for a one day conference on the topic of the UK rail network resilience in dealing with severe weather conditions.
The conference programme covered recommendations from the UK Transport Resilience Review 2014, lessons learned from failure of the rail line at Dawlish by a storm in 2014, national and international case studies, data forecasting techniques and the importance of cross sector working. At the time of the conference programme production, I didn’t think that transport network resilience would again become a lesson learned with another rail line closure in December 2015.
Much of the North of England has been devastated by floods caused by record levels of rainfall over the Christmas period. Power and transport networks have been cut off and Network Rail has confirmed that the West Coast Mail Line north of Carlisle will be closed for several days to deal with the impact of the floods.
A recent research by Mott Macdonald estimated that the damage done by the storms in 2014 cut off rail links in Cornwall and Devon for several weeks, is to cost the economy £1.2bn. The cost of the closure of vital infrastructure from the recent floods is yet to be calculated but will include the impact of closing the west coast main line, the loss of power to 55,000 properties and businesses, and the impact of lost connectivity between towns and villages as bridges were destroyed by surging flood waters. The question is: were the lessons from 2014 learnt and if lessons were learnt, are the implementation of these lessons not apparent yet or are we just using these as opportunities for discussion rather than making changes? I hope 2016 is not going to be just another year to debate the lessons learned from the new floods of 2015 but to act as a showcase year and gives us a successful case to discuss and act on of "how well our transport network and infrastructure is resilient in response to severe weather”.
Wish you all a very Happy New Year.
Zeenara Najam, i-Select Consultancy Ltd