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Alliance calls for new approach to delivering the UK’s infrastructure

A radical shake-up of the way ­national infrastructure is planned, developed and protected is needed to combat the future effects of climate change, a report by an ­alliance of engineering bodies has warned.

The Engineering the Future (EtF) report, carried out by the ICE, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology among others, was commissioned by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of its cross-governmental work into climate change adaptation, and will be considered in its final review due later this year.

It says that there are vulnerabilities across all areas of infrastructure that could lead to failures in these critical networks in the face of more frequent extreme weather.

Interdependence

Due to the interdependencies between networks the alliance stresses the UK must address ­infrastructure networks as one interconnected system to avoid ­”cascade failures” - a domino ­effect where one service causes another to fail.

Recent examples of this ­scenario include the 2009 Cumbria floods where power cuts and limited road access quickly affected all public services in the region, and the severe winter weather over the last two years that has seen public services stall across the country.

The findings were formally presented to the government’s chief scientific advisor Sir John Beddington, at a launch at the Institution of Engineering and Technology. A follow-up event was held in the East Midlands last week, which saw over 160 delegates attending to hear Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and ICE president elect Richard Coackley explain the implications for industry, the supply chain, government and the public.

Climate change

Coackley said: “Climate change will fundamentally affect the way infrastructure operates in the future and we must begin to make step changes to address this. If we want energy, water and transport systems to continue to meet the demands of society in years to come we need to change practices now, and this requires both industry and government to understand what role they play in achieving this.”

“This report will inform Defra’s Adapting National Infrastructure programme, which will set out the government’s vision for adapting UK infrastructure this spring,” said environment minister Lord Henley.

  • Report available at http://www.ice.org.uk/Information-resources/Document-Library

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