Poland’s transport system has been revealed as the most at-risk from extreme weather in a study of Europe’s 27 states commissioned by the European Commission.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland led the evaluation of the risks posed to transport by extreme weather phenomena in what is believed to be the first study in the world of its kind.
VTT found that among the EU Member States, Poland has the highest risk level indicator. The risk level is also quite high in Italy, Romania and Hungary.
The highest-risk regions are in the countries of Eastern Europe and in mountainous areas. Low-risk countries include Ireland, Austria, Luxembourg and the Nordic countries.
The risk-level evaluation was conducted using a risk indicator designed by VTT scientists. The calculations were performed on substantial datasets and involved estimating the probability of phenomena such as heavy rain, floods, landslides, storms and heat waves based on long-term weather statistics. The weather data for the study were supplied by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The risk indicator also incorporated country-specific data on traffic density, population density, the quality level of transport systems and the economic resources available.
“Poland has high volumes of traffic and large harbours, and the country’s transport systems are in poorer shape than for most parts of the EU,” said VTT principal scientist Pekka Leviäkangas. “Also, the country experiences a comparatively high incidence of extreme weather phenomena.
“A problem at a transport hub, such as a port, has extensive knock-on effects on road and rail transport,” he added. “Poland also has a fairly high population density, and its economy is at the lower end of the scale within the EU,” said Leviäkangas. “That is why the risk level there is high.”
The report recommends that nation’s identified as at-risk pay more attention to the maintenance of transport infrastructure.
“Transport infrastructure can be improved through careful planning that takes better account of weather phenomena. The climate is warming up, and there are weak signals indicating that extreme weather phenomena are on the increase,” said Leviäkangas.
“Much greater attention should be paid to the maintenance and upkeep of the transport infrastructure, particularly in urban areas. Drainage systems, for instance, should be functioning as designed, and they should be regularly serviced - sometimes even small things can matter. The appropriate preparation can save a lot in costs in the long term,” he said.