Climate change is creating changes in our weather patterns bringing an increasing number of storms and bad weather during the autumn months.
For the rail industry, autumn is always a challenging time but 2020 saw storms Ellen, Francis and Alex create extensive disruption as well as bringing the wettest day recorded since 1891!
Storms bring serious problems and impacts enormously on rail passenger services and replacement road transport.
In a bid to work ahead of these potential issues Transport for Wales (TfW) and Network Rail have joined forces in preparation for the potential challenges the weather may bring in 2021, reducing the risk to services.
Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, commented: “Climate Change is having a very real impact on the weather as we’ve seen with the unprecedented storms of the last few years, so I am pleased that TfW working with Network Rail are taking these measures, using the most up to date technology, to deal with the impact of severe weather on our rail network as we head into the autumn.”
TfW and Network Rail have so far:
- Identified high-risk sites using Automated Intelligent Video Review (AIVR) footage which is taken from the front of trains and builds a robust de-vegetation plan for each area.
- Created a devoted autumn control desk with twice the amount of resources as autumn 2020 and larger numbers of frontline response teams available each day to discover and deal with issues quickly.
- The utilisation of railhead treatment trains to blast vegetation debris off of the tracks, followed by an application of traction gel in areas where vegetation can cause low wheel-rail friction levels. This year will see 57 Traction Gel Applicators in action.
- Put strategies in place to lessen service disruption in the event of a reduction in available train carriages.
- Removed class 142 and 143 ‘Pacers’ from service as they were the most vulnerable rolling stock to adhesion-related issues within TfW’s fleet
Transport for Wales Director for Planning and Performance, Colin Lea, said: “The autumn season presents significant challenges to the rail industry, and we work hard throughout the year preparing.
“Working within COVID guidelines and closely with Network Rail and valley lines maintenance colleagues, we have cleared concerning lineside vegetation, arranged rail treatment train runs and removed the old ‘Pacer’ trains, which were our most vulnerable trains when it came to adhesion-related issues at this time of year.
“Our staff will continue to work around the clock over the autumn period, and beyond, in some very testing environments to keep our customers on the move, with their safety at the heart of everything we do.”
Bill Kelly, route director at Network Rail Wales and Borders said: “Preparing for autumn is at the heart of our partnership with Transport for Wales.
“We work together throughout the year, managing vegetation in high-risk areas and deploying innovative technology to treat the tracks. This year, we’ve also doubled the size of our Autumn Control Team to improve our response to incidents.
“With climate change increasingly affecting the transport network, from the Conwy Valley to Severn Estuary, we’re investing in schemes across Wales and Borders to build a more resilient railway.”
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