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 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 mudslides more likely to occur on a greater scale and more frequently, but new locations may also be affected. In future, there will be more wet-snow and gliding avalanches during the winter. In the summer months, an increased risk of forest fires is to be expected everywhere in Switzerland. 

To prepare for the consequences of climate change, SBB is focusing on research and innovation. This is the foundation for the future-focused management of systems and natural hazards. With the help of cutting-edge 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. 

On average, SBB spends CHF 10-15 million annually on natural hazard protection. This includes investments on the one hand and the development and maintenance of protective measures on the other. 

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 healthy and species-rich forest offers sufficient protection against natural hazards.  

In addition, around 5,400 protective structures and organisational measures, such as monitoring with alarm systems, natural hazard alarm systems or the avalanche service, protect rail passengers from natural hazards. These include protective dams, rockfall protection nets, rock supports, avalanche barriers, sediment traps and stream control structures. 

Geologists, forestry engineers, natural and environmental scientists, biologists and other natural hazard specialists all work to ensure safe railway operations by carrying out situational assessments on site and maintaining the protective systems. 

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