Nav: Home

Rail line disruption set for dramatic increase as sea levels continue to rise

December 21, 2015

Rail services to and from the South West of England could be disrupted for more than 10 per cent of each year by 2040 and almost a third by 2100, a new study suggests.

The cost of maintaining tracks and sea defences could also soar as predicted sea level rises, coupled with coastal storms and floods, pose major challenges for rail operators and governments.

The research, published in the Journal of Transport Geography, focusses on the impact of sea level rises on the Dawlish to Teignmouth stretch of the main London to Penzance route, which was closed for two months in early 2014 due to a series of coastal storms.

But academics say there could be similar implications for other vulnerable stretches of railway throughout Wales, South East England, the Cumbria coast and Scotland, as well as internationally in the United States, Australia, India and Thailand.

Dr David Dawson, from the University of Leeds, is lead author on the study. He said: "Our rail history clearly shows the problem is worsening. Defence improvements may be able to improve the situation in the short to medium term but the long-term future of the line is what is really worrying. Coastal transport routes around the globe face similar problems from rising sea levels and we need to think carefully how we adapt to these problems so as not to create further issues for future generations. Studies such as this provide important evidence to start strategic planning."

The study showed during the lifetime of the Great Western Railway, which was completed in 1846, there has been a 20cm rise is sea levels in the English Channel.

However, almost half of that occurred in the last 40 years, with a direct correlation between that and an increase in the number of recorded line disruptions.

Using that historical data, and predicted sea level rises outlined by the United Kingdom Climate Impact Programme (UKCIP), academics demonstrate that current disruption (a total of 9.6 days per year) could rise by more than 300 per cent (to 40 days per year) by 2040 and up to 1170 per cent (to 120 days per year) by 2100.

And while Network Rail currently spends around £800,000 a year maintaining sea defences between Dawlish and Teignmouth, calculations suggest this could rise to between £5.8million and £7.6million per year by 2040.

It could also trigger a sizeable increase in the amount of compensation paid to train operators and customers, with the research estimating the average annual delay charge to have been £270,000 per year between 1997 and 2009 but potentially rising to £1.1million by 2040.

Jon Shaw, Professor of Transport Geography at Plymouth University, said: "Billions of pounds have been committed to the HS2 rail link, but our predictions suggest that just eight years after its completion, rail users in the South West will be facing a situation where their only service cannot function for 40 days each year. The closure of the line at Dawlish in 2014 was unprecedented, but it had significant knock-on effects for the whole South West in both economic and social terms. It was a demonstration of the threats posed to the region's infrastructure, and this study is a further reminder of the potential impact future climate change could have."

University of Plymouth

Related Sea Levels Articles:

Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.
Getting glued in the sea
New bio-inspired hydrogels can act like superglue in highly ionic environments such as seawater, overcoming issues in currently available marine adhesives.
Sea levels to continue rising after Paris agreement emission pledges expire in 2030
Sea levels will continue to rise around the world long after current carbon emissions pledges made through the Paris climate agreement are met and global temperatures stabilize, a new study indicates.
Rising sea levels destroyed evidence of shell middens at many prehistoric coastal sites
In a new study, researchers confirm a theory from the 1970s that coastal hunter-gatherers processed much of their shellfish at the beach before returning with their meat to camps on higher ground, leaving the heavy shells by the water.
Melting small glaciers could add 10 inches to sea levels
A new review of glacier research data paints a picture of a future planet with a lot less ice and a lot more water.
Melting glaciers causing sea levels to rise at ever greater rates
Melting ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic as well as ice melt from glaciers all over the world are causing sea levels to rise.
From sea to lab
With its vast numbers of different lifeforms, the sea is a largely unexplored source of natural products that could be starting points for new pharmaceuticals, such as the antitumor drugs trabectedin and lurbinectedin.
Rising sea levels may build, rather than destroy, coral reef islands
Rising global sea levels may actually be beneficial to the long-term future of coral reef islands, such as the Maldives, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Climate change, rising sea levels a threat to farmers in Bangladesh
Rising sea levels driven by climate change make for salty soil, and that is likely to force about 200,000 coastal farmers in Bangladesh inland as glaciers melt into the world's oceans, according to estimates from a new study.
World Heritage Sites threatened by rising sea levels
In the Mediterranean region, there are numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in low-lying coastal areas.
More Sea Levels News and Sea Levels Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab