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Network Rail to invest £2.8bn in protecting railways from climate change and extreme weather

Network Rail has announced plans to increase spending to protect the railways from climate change and extreme weather – with around £2.8 billion expected to be invested over the next five years.

The money will be spent recruiting almost 400 additional drainage engineers and training hundreds of operational staff to better interpret weather forecasts.

The public company also plans to carry out railway more resilient dykes and install video surveillance at sites at high risk of flooding.

The collapse of the embankments has caused major disruption to several roads in recent months.

The Chiltern Main Line near Bicester, Oxfordshire, and the West Coast Main Line between Coventry and Rugby were both blocked by landslides in January and February respectively.

Extreme weather events in the UK have become more frequent and England experienced record amount of rainfall in the 18 months to March this year.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines described climate change as “the biggest challenge facing our railways”.

“Last year’s extreme weather… took a toll on our railway – and experts predict the same thing will happen,” he said.

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All ScotRail trains were suspended at the height of Storm Isha in January

“We are meeting this challenge by investing heavily to make our railway more resilient and better performing for rail users during such events,” Mr Haines continued.

“We can never completely protect our railway from severe weather, but we can be better prepared and mitigate the worst that Mother Nature has in store – now and in the future – to keep passengers and services safe and moving .”

The spending is part of Network Rail’s five-year £45.4 billion investment plan, which also includes spending £19.3 billion to replace old assets with new ones and invest in projects such as digital signage.

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Some £12.6 billion has been earmarked for maintenance, £5.3 billion for support functions such as scheduling and IT, £4.4 billion for operations including signaling, and £1.8 billion will be set aside in a risk fund for unforeseen events.

The majority of Network Rail’s revenue will come from grants from the UK and Scottish governments (£29.8 billion). It also collects track access charges from train operators (£13.8 billion) and is expected to generate £1.7 billion from commercial revenue, such as retail and property.

Railways Minister Huw Merriman said: “Our railways are at the heart of many people’s daily lives and take us where we need to be, whether that is to family and friends, to work, education or vacation.

“That’s why the network must be ready for the future, with the resilience to cope with extreme weather conditions while providing the reliability and level of service our passengers deserve.”

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