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. 

Various effects of climate change could jeopardise the railway system. They include changes in the soil moisture regime, which can lead to more flooding and landslides on slopes and embankments. More frequent and heavier rainfall can also cause landslides or debris flows to occur in new locations. There will be more snow avalanches and full-depth snow slides in winter. The risk of forest fires during the summer months is increasing throughout Switzerland. To counteract these risks, SBB is focussing on research and innovation. This represents the basis for proactive management of systems and natural hazards. Using state-of-the-art technology, such as Ground Penetrating Radar and satellite data, SBB experts identify terrain or rock movements at particularly exposed sites. The changes expected due to climate change are critically assessed and incorporated into risk-based planning. On average, SBB invests around CHF 10m to CHF 15m annually in protection against natural hazards, covering both investments and the maintenance of protective measures.

Forests as a protective shield.

Around 1,100km of SBB’s railway network is exposed to various natural hazards. Some 8,700ha of forest protects railway tracks against avalanches, rockfall and other natural hazards along a total track length of around 340km. Higher temperatures, longer dry periods and the associated increased risk of forest fires require adjustments to protective forest management. This is because only a healthy and diverse forest can provide sufficient protection against natural hazards. In addition, rail passengers are protected against natural hazards by around 5,400 protective structures as well as monitoring with alarm systems, natural hazard alerts and the avalanche service. These include protective dams, rockfall protection nets, rock support systems, but also avalanche control structures, debris collection solutions and stream barriers. Geologists, forestry engineers, natural and environmental scientists, biologists and other natural hazard specialists, who assess the situation on site and maintain the protective structures, thereby helping to ensure safe rail operations.

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