Improving resilience through a surface water flooding decision support system

In this week’s blog, discover more about our First of a Kind surface water flood forecasting and early warning system, being developed through the First of a Kind 2020 Rail Innovation programme in collaboration with Network Rail.

The First of a Kind 2020 Rail Innovation programme, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Innovate UK in partnership with the Knowledge Transfer Network, has awarded £9.4 million in funding to 25 outstanding projects that will make railways cleaner, greener and more passenger friendly.

JBA were awarded funding in July 2020 to develop a first of a kind surface water flood forecasting and early warning system for Network Rail to support optimised railway operations through a real-time decision-support system. The proposed system is designed to be used by operational teams across Network Rail Regions, and as a management tool for the Infrastructure Control Centre (ICC) (operational management) and Safety, Technical & Engineering (ST&E) team (Asset Management).


Users will benefit from asset-specific surface water flood information, alerts, and warnings, in addition to visualising surface water flood information in map format. This information is provided ahead of the events occurring, across the network, indicating which assets may be partially or fully compromised, identifying if failure may be expected or if inspection/maintenance is required. Asset-specific information is generated by integrating the forecast flood extent and depths with existing asset metadata (location, elevation, asset type, etc.). This information can also be used to prioritise early action to mitigate flood/heavy rainfall impact and minimise disruption. This will enable proactive flood management to reduce the overall impacts experienced by operators, maintainers, including planning by third party suppliers, and users of the national network. The resulting mapping outputs will also be available to inform where rail infrastructure might need priority attention ahead of flood events.

This approach has several distinct advantages:

– It uses the best available rainfall forecast data that can resolve the type of rain that creates very intense, often short duration, rainfall events (convective rainfall cells)

– It has a method of managing the uncertainty in the rainfall forecasts (multiple forecasts, referred to as a forecast ensemble, are used to create a probability of flooding map)

– It uses existing, mature technology and data to:

  • map the surface water flood likelihood in real time, ahead of the event; and
  • link the mapped surface water flood information to Network Rail’s assets to assess flood risk (impact and likelihood) in real time.

The real-time approach will utilise high-resolution rainfall forecasts for the UK and Ireland, and draw on products and knowledge from the suite of other projects that Network Rail has been developing throughout Control Period (CP) 5 (2014 – 2019) and into CP6 (2019 – 2024). This provides a unique and exciting opportunity to combine the wide range of previous and current investment and maximise their use to deliver an application that the rail network currently lacks and would benefit from significantly. The continuing CP6 (2019 – 2024) provides an opportunity to drive the use of these projects and processes forwards to help develop a more sustainable and reliable rail network.


On 15 June we are hosting a virtual event for invited guests from across the transport , utilities, insurance and academia sectors, to demonstrate Flood Foresight’s surface water flood forecasting and early warning system, showcasing its ability to provide asset owners/managers with unique insight into flood events through a case study supported by Network Rail.

Want to know more?

For more information on this project please contact Andrew Gubbin or John Bevington.

Visit our Flood Foresight page to find out more.

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