Rail Baltica develops mitigation measures against climate change impact

A study has assessed the impact of climate change on Rail Baltica operations and maintenance during the lifecycle of the line. Based on the analysis of past 30-year climate and weather data and national level climate projections, the study concluded that Baltic region would gradually experience milder winters with less snow, but more wet snow, freezing rain, glazed frost and ice formation events. In summertime, more frequent heatwaves are likely, leading to maximum temperatures around or even over 40o C. Additionally, the study expects more heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms in the region, as a result of higher air temperatures, which may cause more intense formation of typical summer thunder clouds and increased wind gusts speeds in the summer. Still it should be noted that there is much uncertainty in long-term predictions about storms and wind speeds in the future climate projections.

The study was commissioned by RB Rail AS and conducted by the Estonian environmental management and spatial planning consultancy company Hendrikson & Ko in cooperation with SIA Vides Eksperti and DGE Baltic Soil and Environment. The main objective of the study was to prepare for upcoming climate changes during the whole lifecycle of the new railway line thus ensuring that infrastructure is sustainable and prepared for different climate change scenarios.

“Climate change is becoming an important element in designing and constructing infrastructure objects that will serve the public needs for decades to come”, says Martin Ruul, leading expert at Hendrikson & Ko. “We are pleased to see that Rail Baltica developers are taking a long-term view and considering potential weather and climate risks and foreseeing the mitigation measures already at the design phase of the project. This kind of approach is quite unique is the Baltics and therefore it is important to note that the management of climate risks should be integrated into the general risk management, monitoring and control systems of Rail Baltica and not managed as a stand-alone subject”.

Although this research is aimed to evaluate the climate change impact on the railway and how to mitigate it, the new infrastructure itself will contribute towards climate change mitigation helping to reduce the CO2 emissions, air pollution and noise levels.

Climate change impact and adaption measures on the Rail Baltica railway

Climate changes can highly impact the railway construction, maintenance and operation. Heavy rain, winds and storms as well as snow, freezing rain and glazed frost can suspend the operation of railway or have some serious damage to the infrastructure and affect passengers.

The study has identified the most vulnerable parts of the railway infrastructure and proposed relevant adaption and mitigation measures, which will be integrated in the design of the line and further implemented during the construction phase.