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Building Resilience in Transport Project Design: a technical session at Transforming Transportation

This year’s Transforming Transportation conference brought together high-level policy makers with innovative thinkers to consider climate-centred mobility for a sustainable recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

In a technical session on day two (17th February), HVT’s Senior Technical Director Bernard Obika joined a global panel exploring Building Resilience in Transport Project Design.

The session was moderated by Paul Noumba Um, Infrastructure Regional Director, World Bank who outlined some approaches for assessing and forming an approach to developing climate resilient transport systems. This was followed by presentations on how to use these – and other approaches – to influence and support policy makers.

Cédric Malaval, Project Manager, International Business Development, Setec International described a number of projects assessing the risk exposure of road networks to climate hazards. From these, he identified four best practices to follow to improve the resilience of transport structures:

  1. There is a need to increase the knowledge of existing and future hazards threatening the infrastructures.
  2. Assess the vulnerability of the infrastructures – the fragility.
  3. Assess the criticality of road section – what are the consequences of the assets failing?
  4. Then we can define and outline the mitigation methods. Either by changing the design or putting in some contingency plans and increasing maintenance.

Céline Bonhomme, Director for Research, Innovation and International Affairs, CEREMA, France outlined the Integrated Asset Management (GIPI in French) process, developed by Cerema in France for designing and maintaining the transport infrastructure. It’s 10 stages include how to define the scope of the infrastructure, how to identify and gather assets and date, how to analyse and assess vulnerability and risk, before developing adaptation methods and prioritising implementing the solutions.

This was explored through a case study of the Port of Bordeaux, where the process identified 11 natural hazards and 30 categories of assets and services. Adaptation for climate change included measures like making walls larger to meet sea levels and moving warehouses. The methodology is flexible and can be applied globally.

Bernard Obika, HVT’s Senior Technical Director, outlined a four stage methodology for managing infrastructure resilience, specifically:

  1. Establishing scope – mapping the hazards
  2. Data and analysis – understanding past and present climate hazards, and prioritising those in terms of the criticality of what might happen
  3. Options and solutions – including understanding adaptive capacity
  4. Funding and implementation – sustainable options

He said: “We’re making a move towards a more coherent approach to the issues of resilience and this framework for us makes an important contribution for those in low-income countries to adapt as is needed.

He went on to say: “It isn’t just about climate, we’ve seen the havoc wreaked by Covid over the past two years. The one single lesson we’ve learnt from our extensive research is that there is a need to build systems that are much more resilient. The most vulnerable suffered the most. Those with disabilities, resource poor women, transport workers, we need to include them in planning and designing resilient transport infrastructures.

Júnia Soares, Director of Planning of the Secretary of Infrastructure, Santa Catarina Province, Brazil, spoke about her experiences in Brazil to ensure change happens with a commitment from government.

She said: “We have a more technical government in Brazil, which is helping to address our issues. In Santa Catanna, we have more than 5000km of paved road and over 1000km of unpaved road, it becomes very hard to decide where to prioritise. We are using technology to monitor all the regions and to direct the investments that are suffering the most with climate change.

I believe that with technology and engineers who we have hired we can act on climate change mitigation. And methodologies like those shared today are very helpful for us to present our arguments.”

Astrid Haas, Independent Urban Economist, addressed how to approach politicians and get them to develop more resilient transport infrastructures.

What really needs to be done is reconciling the long-term and short-term horizons issues. Politicians only have terms for so long and then want short wins, but resilience takes long term commitments. So how do you make a compelling argument?” she said.

She went on to explain, “My city, Kampala, doesn’t have a city transport infrastructure. We sit in traffic every single day. The costs at 4.2% of our city’s GDP in not having an effective system.

To influence politicians, we’ve mapped the benefits, and not just the challenges. For example, the new jobs created. To get people to make change we need to show the benefits.

In response to a question about how World Bank and investors could do better, Astrid outlined three areas where improvements could be made:

  1. Development partners in general take a project or a sector approach but a resilient transport system is one that works as a system. It’s impossible to do transport well if you just focus on one project. There’s often a bias to work on the easiest one and that’s roads, but in Kampala the biggest modality is walking.
  2. It requires coordination if you’re going to take a project approach that feeds into a bigger plan.
  3. Finance – government often comes from shorter term investment priorities but it needs to come from longer term patient capital. We need big money for big projects that take time to do well.

In closing, the panel all agreed that building resilience in transport ultimately needs a systematic approach with a long-term vision. It needs to be built on research and data. Bernard Obika said: “Data is key to informing how we built resilience in the future. We need a much more systematic way in which we gather and use data. Data and research needs to then have the ongoing commitment from policy makers if the adaptations needed to become climate resilient are going to become a reality.”