University of Birmingham

Operational Network Responses to Weather Events to Improve Future Climate Resilience

Deadline: 01 September 2022

Project Description

Different weather events have different impacts on the railway network, both physically and in terms of performance. For example, flooding incidents are often quite localised but their impacts can be felt across the national network, whereas the impacts of heat on the railway can often cover large parts of the country, particularly in the south. The scale of these impacts will change in the future as the climate continues to change and therefore the strategic direction of guidance needs to be clear. This guidance thus needs to include elements of preparation, impact management, and recovery approaches. The implications of different events in terms of return to normal service vary, for example, emergency speed restrictions could be introduced or sections closed whilst inspection occur. This would account for ensuring the safe running of train services whilst also minimising the impact of the weather event and subsequent delays on the network.

Utilising sophisticated modelling techniques and systems of systems approaches the impact of different weather events on the network can be investigated and optimum strategic and operational responses for a range of future events can be developed to minimise negative impacts on performance. Simulating these responses would help us understand the scale of the risk to the network of different weather event types both now and under future climates. In addition, this will equip Network Rail with best practice to create the optimal responses, including design of infrastructure, to create a resilient railway network that can rapidly return to normal operations and minimise disruptions to the wider network. This complements ongoing work happening within Network Rail, including the weather resilience task force, working on key asset resilience and current weather responses leading to improved resilience of operations.

This is a funded opportunity supported by Network Rail and will be supervised by a Network Rail subject expert, and Drs Gemma Nicholson and Andrew Quinn, to whom informal enquiries may be made, at the School of Engineering, University of Birmingham. It is suitable for candidates with a strong background in a technical subject as well as experience of modelling and computer programming. It is part of a cohort of six projects due to start in autumn 2022.