Delays due to weather conditions can account for an increasing proportion of operational delays, to the extent that these are now considered a significant issue in Australian rail systems.
In particular, higher ambient temperatures or rapid changes in ambient temperatures increase the risk of significant alignment errors or track buckling; the magnitude of this risk varies with track design and its condition.
The ensuing safety risks can be mitigated by the application of speed restrictions, which then results in delays to on-time running. Rail management strategies for hot-weather operations also impact track maintenance activities.
Changes in global and local weather conditions that have and will continue to result in climate change are likely to further impact the safety and operational efficiency of railways unless asset owners are pro-active in addressing this risk in their longer-term strategies, both for new track designs and for maintenance of existing tracks .
This desktop study will identify ways in which the above aspects can be addressed in order to improve the resilience of railway systems to climatic conditions by means of informed risk mitigation strategies.