Heat-related failures on Southeast England’s railway network: insights and implications for heat risk management

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21 Citations (Scopus)


High temperatures and heatwaves can cause numerous problems for railway infrastructure such as track-buckling, sagging of overhead lines, and the failure of electrical equipment. Without adaptation, these problems are set to increase in a future warmer climate. This study used industry fault data to examine the temporal and spatial distribution of heat-related incidents in southeast England and produce a unique evidence base of the impact of temperature on the rail network. In particular, the analysis explored the concept of failure-harvesting whereby the infrastructure system becomes increasingly resilient to temperature over the course of the summer season (April – September) as the most vulnerable assets fail with each incremental rise in temperature. The analysis supports the hypothesis and clearly shows that a greater number of heat-related incidents occur in the early/mid-summer season before reducing significantly despite equivalently high temperatures. This failure-harvesting and the consequential increased resilience of the railway infrastructure system over the course of the summer season could permit an innovative and dynamic new approach to heat-risk management on the railway network. New approaches that would reduce the disruption and delays, and improve service are explored here.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-191
Number of pages15
JournalWeather, Climate, and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016


  • Physical Meteorology and Climatology
  • Temperature
  • Observational techniques and algorithms
  • Surface observations
  • Applications
  • Seasonal effects
  • Societal impacts
  • Transportation meteorology


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