As long as railways have existed, the threat of disaster has never been far away. But as trains have become faster and more sophisticated, the techniques, methods and systems put in place to prevent and mitigate potential disasters have also become more complex. International Railway Journal’s David Burroughs looks at how railways around the world are building resilience and recovery measures into their networks.
It can only take seconds for disasters to strike, but their effect on railway infrastructure and operations can often linger for weeks, months or even years. From minor mishaps right through to major calamities, railways have always been at risk of “the big one” striking. As the threat of climate change increases, it also brings with it the potential for bigger and more frequent natural disasters.
But far from resigning to a belief that disasters are inevitable, railways across the world are researching new and innovative ways to learn from past experiences and prevent and mitigate future events.
Learning from Hurricanes
Lying on average about 30 feet above sea level, New York City is highly susceptible to the dangers of severe weather. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has learned from past experience how to create a system that is more reliable and resilient in the face of disaster.
When Superstorm Sandy approached in October 2012, MTA put into practice techniques learned from Hurricane Irena the year before and the Christmas Day Blizzard of 2010. The authority closed the subway, commuter rail lines, tunnel, and bridges and moved equipment to high ground. New York City Transit (NYCT) also covered station entrances and ventilation grates to minimize flooding, secured level crossings, and used 1,200 sheets of plywood and 15,000 sandbags to erect temporary flood barriers throughout the system.