Climate change is driving extreme weather across Scotland, Europe and the rest of the world. Over the summer the UK recorded its hottest ever temperature at over 40C , while just last year temperatures in Sicily reached 48C, the hottest recorded temperature in Europe.
Millions is already being spent on climate change mitigation and ensuring track geometry remains on course as summers get hotter and winters get wetter is a challenge.
Why is extreme hot weather a problem for transport infrastructure?
Steel rails in the UK are ‘pre-stressed’ to summer temperatures of 27C, and when air temperature reaches 30C, the rails can actually be 20C higher and expand and buckle – causing delays, cancellations and slowing of services. Deformation of tracks costs time and money and can pose a danger to passenger safety. The costs of increasing temperatures are being felt worldwide – researchers from Beijing estimate that just half a degree Celsius less warming would save economic losses of approximately $630m (£452bn) per year on the Chinese rail system.
Other transport infrastructure is also affected: Luton Airport recently had to stop flights after the heat melted the runway and the RAF was forced to divert some aircrafts. Even roads can begin to soften at high enough temperatures.