Assessing Infrastructure Risks For Climate Change

| Industrial Sector News

Extreme weather events have a more damaging effect on some roads than others

European risk assessment tool helps local authorities plan for severe weather events

Throughout Europe, local authorities and their associated National Road Administrations (NRAs) are having to deal with more frequent and severe weather, greater sea level rises and increased stress on infrastructure leading to higher deterioration rates.

To combat the effects of this a new tool has been developed under a transnational research programme including the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to provide road authorities with risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis capabilities.

The DeTECToR (Decision Support Tools for Embedding Climate Change Thinking on Roads) tool provides insight into climate impact and targets the priorities for intervention. By installing robust road network data onto the tool, NRAs can assess the risks based on calculated indicators related to climate, infrastructure and impacts.

Dr Sarah Reeves is a member of the coordinating team at TRL that worked with partners from Germany, Poland and Austria to successfully develop the software tools and guidance documents for road authorities. According to her, the new service aims to help asset managers and policymakers determine the most cost-effective adaptation measures and help them develop the business case for taking appropriate action.

“By reviewing their operations, standards and asset management processes, users will be able to implement climate change policy consistently and effectively across their network,”

The tool is currently being trialled in Norway, a country characterised by dramatic geography and extreme variations in seasonal climate. The transport network there is prone to coastal and inland floods, landslides and avalanches.

The country is expecting the tool to provide insight into the higher loading climate change will exert on the road network and provide a good overview of the benefits of investment in infrastructure so Norway can balance short-term measures with the need for long-term sustainable works.

In addition, TRL has performed a pilot study in Scotland and results have shown that the DeTECToR tool is functional, relevant and provides useful information for road authorities to help them to adapt to climate change and reduce carbon. Overall it is hoped that the availability of the tool will prompt the consideration of appropriate climate change measures that will become a routine part of the management of the road network.

With noticeable increases in extreme weather events in the country and a corresponding poor perception of the ability of the road network to cope with such events, the new tool may go some way towards encouraging proactive investment in those parts of the network that are expected to suffer the most.

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