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How Will Climate Change Affect UK Transport Infrastructure?

As the world accepts the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is with us, plans are being drawn up and steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of climate change on both our communities and our economies.

As transport planning consultants, Modal Group has to consider and assess new and existing transport networks in terms of their flexibility and long-term resistance to the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. In this article, Petros Price reviews the potential impact of climate change and considers how the UK can prepare for the future.
 

1. How will our transport systems become vulnerable?

It is now not uncommon for us to see on television the impact that extreme weather conditions such as coastal storm surges, extreme temperatures and flooding has on our communities across the UK.

A storm surge in a coastal area could result in cliffs collapsing blocking routes, the loss of basic services such as electricity and clean water, homes and roads being washed away, etc…

Extreme cold spells and winter storms can easily bring roads, railways and airports to a standstill creating considerable delays, accidents and damage to our economy.

Though most of us in the UK would probably welcome a heatwave, extreme heat will damage tarmac, encourage subsidence as well as create other surface and structural damage. It can also impact on how we travel depending on the level of discomfort (think London Underground) with any particular mode of transport thereby potentially adding greater pressure on certain networks.

At the moment, we are more used to heavy rainfall and flooding than heatwaves (though this may change in the future). However, flash floods will endanger lives, damage embankments and wash away most things in its path thereby causing considerable disruption to our transport networks and the communities that use them. Prolonged heavy rain can cause landslides that will bring down buildings and other structures, bridges can be washed away and cause severe problems for underground networks.

These are just some of the problems that can happen and when you also consider the costs of the clean up operation, the potential damage to tourism and the impact on insurance premiums it all becomes a bit of a headache.
 

2. How can transport planners make our infrastucture more resilient?

New transport infrastructure development tends to be determined by new housing or commercial developments. Therefore it is essential that all stakeholders work together to improve our transport networks by making them more resistant to the extreme conditions that are being brought about by climate change. In many cases, there will be a regional strategy or transport plan in place that will provide guidance to planners on the best way forward on extreme weather issues such as flood risk and potential storm damage as well as looking at options for reducing carbon emissions. Let us also not forget about the valuable lessons that we can learn from past and present development schemes from abroad.

It is vital that planners and developers alike confront climate change and continue to work towards meeting future transportation needs. We will need to deal with a variety of issues such as how climate change will impact on the way we travel and how we can adapt our current infrastructure to cope better with these changes. It will also be necessary to put in place preventative measures to limit disruptions to businesses. When considering that climate change takes place over a long period of time, businesses involved in longer term investments such as those in the construction and transport infrastructure could be particularly vulnerable.

To discuss this article or to find out more about our services please contact Petros Price on 015398 86015 or you can contact us directly via the website at Traffic Consultants.