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Building adaptation resilience into UK rail infrastructure

Climate Sense preparing British railways to continuously adapt and enhance their resilience to climate change

British railways are embarking on transformation. The 30-year, ‘Whole Industry Strategic Plan’ aims to establish a clear and unified direction for England’s railways to navigate and adapt to future climate uncertainty. One of its aims is to deliver environmental sustainability.  Sustainability must be an integral component of the physical, digital and human infrastructure of railway organisations, responding not only to policy, but also the expectations of customers, communities and investors with the need for “a comprehensive environment plan that will establish rail as the backbone of a cleaner future transport system.” This is the Sustainable Rail Strategy.  

RSSB, the Rail Safety and Standards Board is leading the development of this plan, providing a whole-industry adaptation pathway to 2050, aligning with the existing Rail Organisation strategies and highlighting varying commitments where they exist. It looks to maximise the social positives of rail, as well as minimising the environmental impacts. Part of the plan involves preparing for a changing climate. 

The British rail sector has engaged Climate Sense to contribute to the Sustainable Rail Strategy (SRS) Flagship Goal 3: ‘Prepared for a Changing Climate: A railway that builds in adaptation and continuously enhances its resilience to climate change

Climate Sense Approach 

We are currently producing a ‘Climate Change Maturity Matrix’ to inform a whole-industry understanding of asset and system climate vulnerability and risk. This approach supports enhanced climate adaptation across the entire system – this is where Climate Sense adds value using its CaDD platform.  

CaDD is being used to deliver a rapid sector-wide stakeholder baseline measure of adaptation capacity. Going forward we are exploring the applicability of CaDD  to monitor progress and with Pathways and Decision Mapping tools to identify next best actions and target adaptation capacity on the pathway to 2050 


The Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation strategy is integral to the SRS and the Whole Industry Strategic Plan (WISP). It focuses on improving the ability of the rail industry to adapt to climate change by enhancing capability and decision making processes   Climate Sense is leading a number of emerging, high impact initiatives to drive the strategy, industry wide: 

  • Developing skills and guidance that enhance decision making and industry capability to embed climate change considerations into their work. 

  • Integrate climate change adaptation into policies, standards and procedures to support a more resilient design and the implementation of resilience measures on the ground. 

  • Facilitating the adoption of  the ‘adaptation pathways approach’ to allow for flexible decision making, leverage partnership opportunities, manage interdependencies and ensure the right interventions can be made at the right time. 

  • Incentivise resilience and adaptation through funding mechanisms, contracts, timetables and ways of working. 

  • Invest in proactive measures that enhance on the ground resilience of infrastructure, rolling stock and leverage wider benefits through nature-based solutions. 

  • Evolve the Climate Sense Maturity Matrix to measure enhancements in adaptive capacity across the industry and develop a specific metric to track on the ground resilience 

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