UK infrastructure too vulnerable to extreme weather, engineering body warns

More frequent extreme weather events will make it difficult for the UK to operate its infrastructure in all conditions, the country’s top civil engineering body has warned.

Flood management systems, energy, and local transport networks all received poor grades in a recent report by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), leading the body to worry about the UK’s vulnerability to the "domino effect", where the failure of one system can affect the others.

Clearly there are some difficult decisions ahead regarding just how resilient the UK should be– ICE Vice President, Keith Clarke

The ICE said UK flood defences were overwhelmed this winter, which in turn disrupted transport, energy, water and waste networks.

"It is becoming clear that extreme weather events will become more frequent," said ICE Vice President, Keith Clarke, "and it is time that factors such as availability, resilience and the ‘domino effect’ across the networks… are rooted into the criteria used to make decisions on which projects go ahead so new infrastructure is more ‘future proofed’."

In its "State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014" report, published 26 June, the ICE gave UK local transport a grade D-minus, meaning "at risk", a drop from its 2010 grade of D.

Flood management scraped in with a C-minus, meaning "requires attention", down from C in 2010. Energy also got C-minus, an improvement on its former score of D. "Clearly there are some difficult decisions ahead regarding just how resilient the UK should be," said Clark, "and also what networks can and should operate 24/7 in what conditions."

He added: "The onus is on Government to make these choices for public sector infrastructure, and it must also build on its efforts to provide the right regulatory incentives to improve resilience within private sector infrastructure."

See the report here.

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