Resilience of rail infrastructure – Interim report following the derailment at Stonehaven

The derailment of a passenger train near Carmont on 12 August 2020 was a tragedy for the families and friends of the three people who lost their lives and will have a lasting effect on those injured and involved in responding, as well as the wider railway industry. It has raised questions about the resilience and safe performance of the railway, and how the risk of such an event happening again can be minimised.

Emerging findings from the investigations suggest that a significant contributing factor to the derailment was heavy rainfall washing material onto the track. Therefore, the report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Transport seeks to provide an initial review of the resilience of rail infrastructure, in particular in the context of severe weather. Because of the nature of events that led to the derailment at Carmont, the report focuses on the resilience of earthworks and drainage infrastructure to heavy rainfall.

It is critical to understand fully what went wrong, what is being done now and what more can and should be done. It is a look at the current approach, procedures and risk; the immediate and longerterm plans and actions; and initial consideration of next steps.

While the report in no way pre-empts the outcome of formal independent investigations being carried out by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, or those by the Office of Rail and Road, British Transport Police and Police Scotland into the tragedy on Wednesday 12 August, the initial findings suggest that, after a period of heavy rainfall, the train struck a pile of washed-out rock and gravel before derailing.

The interim report assesses the current controls and management of thousands of miles of earthworks – the sloped ground beside railway tracks – and sets out how the industry plans to reduce the risk of landslips on the network in the future.

The report highlights the need for an increased focus on deploying technology across the network to predict failures and investment in better forecasting to enable local decisions for imminent weather events. Network Rail’s extensive research and development portfolio is helping to accelerate the development and deployment of this technology.

Key findings also suggest that industry rules for reporting and responding to adverse rainfall will be improved and strengthened, helping signallers better manage services during bad weather. Other plans include discussions with meteorologists to understand how real-time information can be better used to inform train operations about unpredictable extreme weather.

Britain’s railway is one of the safest in Europe and that safety record is underpinned by the resilience of our assets and the rigour of our management system. However, the increasingly clear implications of climate change mean that we must and will do more. This is particularly important with respect to how we operate the railway and the wider deployment of technology.

The full Interim Report can be downloaded here >>

Indonesia rolls out JRC-designed system to enhance Tsunami Early Warning

Indonesia has announced plans to roll out a tsunami early warning system based on the Inexpensive Device for Sea Level Monitoring (IDSL).

The system was developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre with support from the Commission’s department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).

The new plan for IDSL installation foresees the acquisition of 100 new units before the end of 2020 and a more ambitious implementation of an additional 530 units over the coming years, for fisheries, ports and conservation areas across Indonesia.

The IDSL is already installed in 7 locations in Indonesia (Sebesi Island, Marina Jambu, Pandangaran, Sadeng Port and Pelabuhan Ratu on Java Island and Bungus Port on Sumatra Island). It is also being installed in Mentawai Island.

The initiative is part of a collaboration between the JRC, DG ECHO and the Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries, initiated in 2019 when the JRC provided Indonesia with 8 IDSL devices to quickly implement a new Tsunami Warning System in the aftermath of the Anuk Krakatau volcano explosion on 22 Dec 2018. The event triggered a severe Tsunami, killing more than 400 people in the Sunda Strait.

The JRC began developing the IDSL in 2014. It has been installed in 35 locations in the Mediterranean Sea to enhance the monitoring capability of the Tsunami Warning Centres, in collaboration with local institutions and the UNESCO International Oceanographic Commission.

The characteristics of this innovative device are:

its low cost (2.5 k Euro vs 25-30 k Euro of similar devices);
the quick response and transmission (latency less than 5s from measurement to data publication);
the easy installation (less than 2h);
the presence of a software onboard able to detect Tsunami waves or other large sea level variations and send email and SMS to a prescribed list of recipients.
The name of IDSL has been modified to ‘PUMMA’ in the Indonesian language, or Perangkat Ukur Murah untuk Muka Air (Low cost Device for Sea Level Measurement).

It has the same meaning but is easier for Indonesians to recognise and understand its functioning.

Announcing the plans, Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo referred to the geographical position of Indonesia and indicated: “This situation prompts the Indonesian government to formulate a practical tsunami mitigation regime because a large number of coastal communities and villages could be left vulnerable and devastated when a tsunami strikes. In addition, vast coastlines and a large number of coastal communities means that Indonesia needs tsunami early warning systems to be installed in many tsunami prone areas. In this situation, the government needs to develop a tsunami mitigation program that includes the participation of the communities to develop their preparedness and make them more resilient to tsunami."

The new devices will be built with the collaboration of the European Commission and the involvement of local small scale companies and universities.

They will be integrated with the overall monitoring network in Indonesia provided by BIG (Sea Level Monitoring Institution) and BMKG (Tsunami Service Provider).

The IDSL (or PUMMA) will be implemented not only for tsunami early warning, but also for monitoring of fisheries port activities, marine tourisms, marine ecosystem and sea level rise.

Climate change-fueled weather disasters: Costs to state and local economies

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that between 2005 and 2019, the federal government, including FEMA and other agencies, has spent at least $450 billion on weather disaster assistance, an average of $30 billion per year (GAO 2019). It is easy to imagine that, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a similar level of aid may not be available for weather disaster assistance.

The report draws on a growing body of climate science research that connects climate change to worsening weather disasters; shifting climate conditions in response to greenhouse gas emissions have been linked to fiercer storms, heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires.

To gain insight into the price Americans are paying for worsening weather disasters, it summarizes data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database and other public sources.

NOAA has tracked the costs of the most extreme weather events in the United States since 1980, estimating the total direct cost of each event that caused $1 billion or more in damage (adjusting all costs to 2019 dollars). No state is untouched by these billion-dollar disasters.

The analysis includes projections of future increases in the intensity and frequency of weather disasters—should governments, corporations, and citizens fail to take action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Cities, states, and regions also need to work together to build resilience to future weather disasters.

Download report at Environmental Defense Fund

Source - Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Policy brief: technologies for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage in coastal zones

Coastal zones are home to about 40 per cent of the world’s population, living within 100 km of the coastline.

The most recent technology needs assessment indicates that one-third of developing countries placed infrastructure, including in coastal zones, as a prioritized sector, and most of the prioritized technologies in this regard were related to coastal protection, including both hard and soft measures.

Today more than 600 million people live in coastal zones that are less than 10 meters above sea level, and approximately 60 per cent of the world’s metropolises whose populations exceed 5 million people are located within 100 kilometers of a coastline. Coastal zones are a critical component of national economies, including shipping, aquaculture, tourism and other coastal services and industries.

Furthermore, entire economic activities in those of small islands developing states and low-lying delta countries, belong to their coasts. And yet coastal areas stand at risk from rising sea level and extreme weather intensity caused by climate change.

Recently as evidenced in many coastal areas, the impacts of these climate change phenomena, including the losses and damages, are increasingly becoming disruptive.

The report aims to inform policy-makers and practitioners on technological solutions to assess and manage climate-related risks comprehensively in coastal zones. It also identifies recovery and rehabilitation measures to address the impacts from tropical cyclones, storm surges, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other climate-change-related impacts.

Download Report from UNFCCC

Source - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Findings on Changing Risk and Building Codes

The Findings on Changing Risk and Building Codes statement outlines the work to be undertaken by the members of the Global Resiliency Dialogue, including:

-Identifying strategies for the identification of future risks and the development of building code solutions that support adaptation to those risks

-Cooperating on the development of international building resilience guidelines and further exploration of the relationship with land use planning instruments that help determine the location of buildings

-Supporting research initiatives to better understand climate science, to assist in aligning expectations for building durability and resilience with the projection of future hazards

-Developing and deploying messages and resources that enhance understanding of building codes, support a common understanding of risk, and communicate the importance of up-to-date building codes

-Advancing risk and impact analysis to recognize the multiple economic and social benefits provided by resilience investments and the desirability of alternative approaches that fully capture the benefits and costs provided by the building codes

Building Code Development/Research Organization Signatories:

  • Australian Building Codes Board
  • International Code Council
  • National Research Council Canada
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (New Zealand)

Download Findings on Changing Risk and Building Codes

Source - International Code Council (ICC)

JRC assesses critical raw materials for Europe’s green and digital future

The JRC publishes the results of assessments of selected raw materials, with factsheets and reports presenting the criticality of each.

The package also includes a foresight report, translating the EU’s climate-neutrality scenarios for 2030 and 2050 into the estimated demand for raw materials.

It identifies those materials most likely to have a supply risk in the future, for several strategic sectors in the EU. Critical raw materials are found in several green technologies, including electric vehicle batteries.

The findings contribute to the Commission’s fourth list of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) for the EU. The list is part of a communication laying out an action plan to overcome the challenges posed to the secure and sustainable supply of raw materials.

The raw materials that have high economic importance and have a high supply risk are called 'critical' raw materials.

They are part of our daily lives. Tungsten makes phones vibrate. Gallium and indium are part of LED technology in lamps. Beryllium is used in fire-sprinkler systems installed in houses, restaurants, hospitals and offices. Tungsten and tantalum make up key components in airplanes and satellites. Niobium is fundamental in diagnostic medical devices.

They are also used in key technologies to achieve a carbon-neutral and digital society, such as batteries, fuel cells, solar and wind energy, robotics, ICT and 3D printing. As more of these technologies are deployed, the EU risks replacing its reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on raw materials.

In order to identify those materials that are most at risk of supply disruption and take action to secure that supply, the European Commission updates a list of critical raw materials (CRMs) for the EU every three years.

The 2020 list of CRMs for the EU contains 30 materials, compared to 27 in 2017, 20 in 2014, and 14 in 2011. Added to the list are:

Bauxite (mainly used for aluminium production);
Lithium (used in electric vehicle batteries);
Titanium (used in aeronautics, space and defence, as well as in medical applications);
Strontium (used in medical applications and in ceramic magnets)

The screening process assessed 83 materials in total (compared to 78 in 2017). Experts assessed the risk of a disruption in supply - both in relation to the source of the material and in terms of the sectors to which a material contributes.

This follows the official assessment methodology established in 2017. The list supports the EU in negotiating trade agreements, challenging trade distortions and in programming the research and innovation funding under Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.

DDoS coalition is working together during the current DDoS attacks

In recent weeks, dozens of companies in Europe, including multiple ISPs in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, reported DDoS attacks that targeted their DNS infrastructure. have been targeted by DDoS attacks. This concerns attacks on internet providers, banks and digital service providers. Due to the collaboration and countermeasures taken by the members of the NaWas coalition, the consequences for the customers of these organizations have been diminished.

In a DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service) cyber criminals try to make a website, server or service inaccessible. Via a botnet, for example, a centrally controlled network of hacked computers, an online service is visited so massively that it is overloaded. Ordinary website visitors can no longer continue to use the online service.

Many digital services and the underlying infrastructure are essential to our daily life. Consider, for example, payment transactions, information services and online hospital patient files. DDoS attacks are therefore not only annoying for an affected company and its customers, but can have major consequences.

A DDoS attack is punishable. The police are committed to detecting cyber criminals and preventing and disrupting cybercrime and DDoS attacks. The police calls on companies that are being attacked to file a report and not to respond to possible extortion.

Using the right mitigation, most of the attacks can be successfully turned down and the service levels are not interrupted. The participants in the Anti-DDoS Coalition, are actively sharing information and helping each other to counter the attacks. The partnership consists of seventeen organizations including internet providers, internet exchanges, academic institutions, non-profit organizations and banks. The coalition aims to investigate and mitigate DDoS attacks from different angles.

Further details can be found at www.nbip.nl

New ACSC report details cyber threats across Australia

The inaugural ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report outlines key cyber threats and statistics over the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. Over this period, the ACSC responded to 2,266 cyber security incidents and received 59,806 cybercrime reports at an average of 164 cybercrime reports per day, or one report every 10 minutes.

Key cyber threats highlighted include:

Malicious cyber activity against Australia’s national and economic interests is increasing in frequency, scale, and sophistication. Phishing and spearphishing remain the most common methods used by cyber adversaries to harvest personal information or user credentials to gain access to networks, or to distribute malicious content.

Over the past 12 months the ACSC has observed real-world impacts of ransomware incidents, which have typically originated from a user executing a file received as part of a spearphishing campaign. Ransomware has become one of the most significant threats given the potential impact on the operations of businesses and governments.

The 5G network and IoT devices have the potential to be revolutionary, but they require new thinking about how best to adopt them securely. Insecure or misconfigured systems make it very easy for hackers looking to compromise networks, cause harm and steal information.

Cybercrime is one of the most pervasive threats facing Australia, and the most significant threat in terms of overall volume and impact to businesses and individuals. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Targeting Scams 2019 report, identified Australians lost over $634 million to scams in 2019.

The ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report has been developed with law enforcement partners, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, to provide important information about emerging cyber threats impacting the Australian economy.

Full report avaioable at https://www.cyber.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-09/ACSC-Annual-Cyber-Threat-Report-2019-20.pdf

Record floods threaten nuclear power site in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has experienced intense flooding covering at least a quarter of the country as it goes through monsoon season. NASA has released a map showing the extent of this year’s flooding from June to the end of July along the Jamuna River, where high danger levels have been reached or surpassed. Reported at the end of July, more than 4.7 million people have been affected and more than half of Bangladesh’s districts are flooded.

One of the areas affected is the Pabna district, home to the construction site of Bangladesh’s two nuclear power reactors at the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2017, Bangladesh, with help from Russia, began building a nuclear power plant near the Padma River. Upon its planned completion in 2024, the two-unit nuclear power plant is intended to help meet growing energy demands and improve grid reliability. A 2011 agreement was made with Rosatom, a Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, to facilitate the build of two nuclear reactors and establish a legal basis for nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Through this agreement, Rosatom is charged with building and operating all aspects of the nuclear reactor until the first completed year of operation. The deal included a $500 million loan from Russia to finance engineers and project development, the management of spent nuclear fuel, and nuclear technology exchanges between the two countries.

As Russia pushes forward with construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Bangladesh faces major climate change risks from record heavy precipitation, sea-level rise, and climate-induced migration. After two months of rain, the Padma River beside the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant has almost doubled in size. Torrential rains and subsequent river erosion have flooded crops, villages, and critical infrastructure. The districts surrounding the nuclear plant are among some of the most affected in Bangladesh this season.

The site for the plant was selected almost 60 years ago in 1963, during a time when climate change did not factor into such decisions. Despite rising threats to the site from climate change, as well as dire projections for the future, plant construction began anyway in 2017. While a passive core flooding system was built to help avoid a catastrophe if an accident affects the reactor cores, increased climate variability and intensification pose a clear threat to the plant. Scientists tracking the intensity of extreme weather events in Bangladesh have stated that river flooding has become more severe and frequent with this monsoon season, possibly the longest lasting since 1988. Resting only 5,000 feet from the Padma river and below the Ganges delta, the plant is at constant risk.

Bangladesh will have to adapt to its changing climate and ensure that the utmost level of protection and precaution is taken to maintain Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and the surrounding population’s safety. As climate change intensifies, the threat of severe damage to the nuclear power plant increases that could devastate millions.

Source - Center for Climate & Security

FEMA Awards $17.8 Million for Hurricane Irma Recovery in Florida

EMA has awarded grants totaling $17,820,727 for the State of Florida to reimburse applicants for eligible costs of emergency response and repairs to public facilities following Hurricane Irma.

FEMA’s Public Assistance program provides grants to state, tribal, and local governments, and certain types of private nonprofit organizations, including some houses of worship, so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. The Florida Division of Emergency Management works with FEMA during all phases of the program and conducts final reviews of FEMA-approved projects.

The federal share for projects is not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost. The state determines how the nonfederal share of the cost of a project (up to 25 percent) is split with the subrecipients like local and county governments.

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