The devastating effects of the recent storms on the UK transport system, and especially on our rail networks, has been well documented. It has left numerous towns without power, thousands of people without access to transport, and the Devon railway quite literally suspended in mid-air. Arguably, many of the effects may have been unavoidable. However, the costs to the UK’s rail system could certainly have been mitigated if our rail services were upgraded.

A major benefit of high speed rail is its ability to withstand flooding and reduce its consequences. The new high speed lines have been specifically designed and built to be resilient to adverse weather, especially when compared to older lines; HS1 has regularly remained open whilst the rest of Kent’s rail network has been in shut down.

To be specific, HS1 was not only designed to withstand storms of 100 years, but to mitigate against the effects of 1000 years of stormy weather to still allow trains to run. The drainage system has been design to pump up to 900 litres a second. To make this clear, the system would have the ability to empty an Olympic swimming pool in under an hour.

Other salient highlights of the design, with regards to its weather proofing capabilities, include the following:

  • Diverse output discharge piping in tunnels.
  • Output discharge pipes up to 600mm in diameter.
  • Duplicate SIL 3 control system to control & monitor whole operation.
  • Secure 11kV feeder arrangement fed from multiple substations.
  • HS1 section 2 has approaching 30 pumps of various sizes
  • Pump sizes up to 1.8m in height with a diameter of 1m.

If the UK chooses to upgrade to HS2, we could ensure that the vast regions connected to the line will no longer remain susceptible to the challenges of the UK weather system. Instead, by preparing for the possibility of flooding at the very first stages of design and construction, high speed rail will effectively be ‘flood proof’. Crucially, it will ensure that our rail networks will no longer be forced to react and minimise the consequences, but will be able to avoid them. In light of the recent and forthcoming flooding problems we face, these benefits should be made clear.

Image courtesy of the Bechtel image library.