The Role of Transport Infrastructure in Our Adaptation to Climate Change; A Flood Risk Engineer's Perspective

The Role of Transport Infrastructure in Our Adaptation to Climate Change; A Flood Risk Engineer's Perspective


Hamish Hall, WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff


A flood risk manager’s view of how new and existing infrastructure can help societies adapt to climate change and severe weather events. Based on recent road and rail project examples from the UK and abroad.


The paper will begin by introducing our increasing exposure to risks due to severe weather events, in the context of a changing climate. The paper will draw on recent project examples to illustrate how a multi-functional approach can be applied to both existing and new infrastructure to better manage coastal erosion and flood related impacts of severe weather and climate change.
In one example (Gabon and Ivory Coast) a change in planning and design is beginning used to enable severe rainfall events to be better managed by ‘using roads as rivers’, reducing social and economic impacts; lessons learnt here are very relevant to aspects of flood management in Europe. In a recent rail construction example in Poole Harbour (UK) a multi-functional approach to managing erosion and sea level rise will deliver long-term benefits to the local environment, Network Rail and numerous stakeholders. The approach also opens new funding opportunities because resources from a wide group of affected parties are combined. Two ongoing examples in the UK (Exmouth & Jersey) will be used to illustrate how sites that are currently close to a ‘cliff-edge’ in terms of their flood exposure, are particularly susceptible to climate change. The development of measures to manage flooding and adapt to climate change in these projects are fully integrated with (and reliant on) adaptation of highway infrastructure. This is also key to making the scheme economically and environmentally viable. Finally, experience gained as a result of managing the flood and erosion impact of several severe rainfall events on rail infrastructure in the southwest region of the UK will be used to illustrate how bio-engineering is being used to solve immediate problems, and also to create more resilient infrastructure.
Through these examples the paper will demonstrate how a multi-functional approach to infrastructure planning and flood management can deliver significantly enhanced benefits, ultimately leading to safer communities, increased likelihood of funding and improved use of resources. It will highlight the great importance of understanding the wider threats and opportunities associated with the delivery and maintenance of infrastructure.
The paper will also discuss the importance of communicating effectively with wide and (potentially) diverse groups of potential collaborators and stakeholders in promoting the multi-functional approach. This is also crucial to build understanding of the risks arising from severe weather and climate change. To this aim, examples will be given of where communication tools have proved particularly effective.
The paper will close with a review of emerging modelling techniques that are helping the flood and infrastructure community better understand the uncertainty in severe weather events now and in the future.


Association for European Transport