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Cumbria flooding exposes UK’s vulnerability to infrastructure failure

Cumbria’s floods have re-emphasised how dangerously vulnerable the UK is to failures of its critical infrastructure, engineers warned this week.

“The events of the last few days have shown once again just how vulnerable our infrastructure is in the face of extreme conditions,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

“We are often only hours away from social collapse if our critical infrastructure were to fail totally.”

Foulkes noted that the interdependent nature of critical infrastructure can have chaotic consequences in circumstances such as those in Cumbria.

“We are often only hours away from social collapse if our critical infrastructure were to fail totally.”

ICE director general Tom Foulkes

“The failure of a single piece of infrastructure, such as a bridge, not only causes difficulties in reaching basic commodities and services, but also leads to the failure of other connected infrastructure networks such as electricity, gas, telephone lines, waste and water supply,” he said.

The ICE’s recent State of the Nation: Defending Critical Infrastructure report examined the resilience of infrastructure networks. It concluded that vulnerabilities to system failure are neglected and underfunded, and that urgent action is needed to protect infrastructure.

“It is vital we invest in protecting and maintaining critical infrastructure to reduce the risk of system failure and ensure we are better protected against future crises,” said Foulkes.

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