Assessing resilience

An engineering team from Birmingham University has received a £1.5m government grant to examine how to make the UK’s transport systems resilient to climate change.



The EPSRC-funded, four-year study will predict the nature of the UK’s transport systems by the year 2050, making recommendations to ensure that it will be able to cope with the disruptive effects of extreme weather events.



The effort includes project partners Hydraulics Research, British Geological Survey, Transport Research Laboratory and the universities of Nottingham and Loughborough.



Civil engineers at Birmingham will investigate how transport and infrastructure will change over the coming decades and assess its resilience. The group will make suggestions on technological changes that could be built into the design of future systems to make them more robust. Researchers at Birmingham University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences will devise future weather models to identify the kind of meteorological impacts that will affect the transport infrastructure.



Lee Chapman, a climate and atmosphere researcher at Birmingham, said: ‘Our transport is continuously subject to weather impacts, causing delays, injuries and even fatalities. Weather events, such as heavy snow in 2009, high winds in 2008 and extreme heat in 2003, have resulted in severe disruption as networks become impassable, be it due to ice, blown-over trees or buckled railway lines. The ongoing cost of maintaining our transport systems as a result of such episodes is considerable.’



He added: ‘While it is difficult to accurately predict exactly what will happen in the future in terms of weather, it is possible to produce a range of plausible scenarios so that we can adapt our transport infrastructure to be more resilient to climate effects.’



Chris Baker, lead investigator of the project from the university’s School of Civil Engineering, said the group will first need to discover how transport is used and embedded in people’s lives and social relationships. It will then predict how this will shift under changing environmental conditions.



He added: ‘Our research will impact on the decision-making of government, transport planners and managers as well as professional engineers. It will provide them with the knowledge that will improve their decision-making with regards to anticipated changes in climate, technology and economies. This will impact on the public and business community and thereby on the health, quality of life and wealth of the UK.’