Natural hazards and climate change.
SBB protects itself against natural hazards and the consequences of climate change with transparent, modern and future-oriented natural hazard prevention. This therefore involves managing valuable protective forests and protective structures while relying on the situational assessments of specialist staff.
A functioning railway system with resilient infrastructure ensures the transport of people and goods by rail throughout the country, which is vital for a vibrant national economy.
However, the risks associated with climate change are growing. The main effects of climate change are expected to be significant changes in the water balance, which will impact flooding and the stability of embankments and slopes. Due to an increase in heavy rainfall, not only are landslides, debris flows and rockfalls more likely to occur on a greater scale and more frequently, but new locations may also be affected. There will be also more wet snow avalanches, more unstable slopes and an increased risk of forest fires.
In order to be prepared for the consequences of climate change, SBB relies on future-oriented management of installations and natural hazards. With the help of innovative technologies such as georadar or satellite data, SBB experts detect changes in the terrain or rock shifts at particularly exposed locations. Expected changes due to climate change are analysed critically and integrated into the risk-based planning.
Forest as a protective shield.
SBB is exposed to various natural hazard processes along approximately 1,100km of track. Some 8,700ha of forest protect railway tracks against avalanches, rockfall and other natural hazards along a total track length of around 340km. The increased heat and dry periods and the associated increased risk of forest fires require adjustments to protective forest management. This is because only a dense and species-rich forest with a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees offers sufficient protection against rockfalls. And only dense forests with no large gaps can effectively prevent avalanches from gaining momentum.
In addition, around 5,400 protective structures and organisational measures such as monitoring with alarm systems or the avalanche service protect rail passengers from natural hazards. These include embankments, anti-rockfall netting, rock reinforcements and natural hazard alarm systems.
Forestry engineers, geologists, environmental engineers,biologists and specialists conduct on-site assessments and maintain protective installations, thus ensuring safe railway operations.