Resilient Railways facing Heavy Rains

Project information

  • Acronym: RERA-Rain
  • Resilient Railways facing Climate Change: Heavy Rains
  • Sector: Infrastructure Subsystem - Track Experts Group
  • Project start date: 05/04/2022
  • Project duration: 36 months
  • Project director: Christian Chavanel
  • Project manager: Jesús Palma
  • Status: ongoing project

Project description

What is RERA?
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind this century. Companies in naturally exposed regions could see a significant share of their capital destroyed if natural hazards/disasters materialise or increase, especially in the long run.

As the UIC Vision 2030 ‘Design a better future’ explains, given the right action and investment, we can create a future where rail is the backbone of a sustainable mobility system, meaning that the resilience of infrastructure, rolling stock and operations to climate change will play an important role.

UIC is committed to enhancing the sector´s resilience to climate change and, for that purpose, will lead a set of five projects under the name of Resilient Railways Facing Climate Change (RERA) where the consequences of heavy rains, high temperatures & desertic conditions, strong winds, adherence and earthquakes on both operations and infrastructure will be studied.

The benefits of these projects for the railway system are:

  • Resilience will be increased through the identification and management of and adaptation to natural hazards.
  • Operational and safety measures will be defined.
  • Design parameters and operating principles will be upgraded.

Many sections of the railway are built in cuttings and tunnels that lie lower than the surrounding areas, while other lines sit on flat, low-lying land with limited drainage. For these reasons, certain lines can flood during or after heavy rain, which can cause serious problems for the railway.

Additional problems come from building on land next to a railway track, as rain that would previously have soaked into the ground may instead run off onto the tracks.

Heavy rain and consequent flooding may impact infrastructure by:

  • Washing away ballast, making the line unsafe until it has been re-laid.
  • Leading to failure in points and signalling equipment, as they rely on intricate wiring and power supplies, and will need replacing before services can run again.
  • Causing delays as trains must reduce their speed to avoid damage if the water level rises above the rails.
  • Overwhelming the drainage systems on the railway.
  • Causing landslides due to excess run-off.

The new project will combine experience in managing these situations from different parts of the railways sector, including:

  • Monitoring weather
  • Deploying flood defence systems
  • Clearing branches, leaves, and drainage systems to let the water drain away
  • Developing specific systems, such as pumping stations in flood-prone locations
  • New designs of tracks and signalling at higher levels to avoid flooding

The project forms part of the UIC task force to adapt the railway system to extreme weather conditions and fight against climate change, and will lay the foundations for combatting the other previously mentioned hazards, like extreme temperatures or strong winds.

Project objectives

The project aims to:

  • Draw upon international experience, where a region may increase its preparedness for projected weather hazards by learning about another region’s solutions to the same problems.
  • To create an international community of adaptative railway organisations that shares long-term plans for development, which includes sustainable resilience to climate change as part of their business with a holistic operational, technical, environmental, and socio-economic approach.
  • Enhance the flood resilience of infrastructure.

The project considers existing infrastructure, which has to be properly maintained with a limited budget and takes the difficulties of adapting to new climate constraints into account.

It will also draw on the relationships that UIC has already built with international institutions and agencies to take best practices from other domains for use in the railway sector. Additionally, sharing experiences at an international level, leads to increased collaboration between all of the individual organisations involved.

Project members

UIC contact

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Wednesday 24 May 2023