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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Tariq Sipra

Resilience based Futureproofing for Sustainable Railway Infrastructure
The railway infrastructure is among the prime movers of UK’s national economy and leading contributors towards a sustainable society. The reliability and longevity of such infrastructure are questions of constant research and massive investment. However, railway infrastructure is facing constant challenges from extreme weather conditions and changing trends of passenger and freight services. The anticipation of future events, changes, needs or preferences to minimise such impacts are highly desirable objectives at both operational and strategic levels. The increasing trend of extreme weather events like floods, snow and excessive heat cause significant disruptions to the railway operation and damage to rail infrastructure. A resilient and adaptable railway infrastructure having futureproofing considerations demands a critical evaluation of such extreme weather events and resultant loss of services. This research aims at futureproofing railway infrastructure by way of defining and implementing various aspects of resilience against natural hazards. It broadly focuses on fundamentals of futureproofing; and to see why consideration of futureproofing is important for railway infrastructure; and how to incorporate futureproofing considerations into existing railway asset management regime. A detailed literature analysis reveals that the concept of resilience has been used and defined in various disciplines differently. This research has taken engineering resilience as the foundation stone and expanded its boundaries to incorporate social and economic resilience for a more holistic approach. One of the key elements of futureproofing railway infrastructure is developing resilience against extreme weather conditions. The data gathered for various disruption scenarios and loss of services were examined by using a risk assessment methodology based on cause-and-effect analysis and plotting Causal Loop Diagrams. This system level approach helped to formulate a resilience pattern against various disruption scenarios and paved the way for accepting futureproofing at conceptual level instead of an add- on at later stages. In the light of working definition of resilience, an assessment tool was developed. Finally, the resilience in railway infrastructure was tested through that tool in a case study to assess the gap between targeted and present levels of resilience. The study provided a reliable mechanism for resilience gap analysis and suggested a clear path for future research into the topic and challenging orthodoxy in managing railway infrastructure.