Disruption to the transport network that connects the UK's urban areas - enabling the flows of good and services between them - has significant implications for people's safety and the economy. Recent extreme weather events have exposed the vulnerability of this network to flood damage and challenged emergency services during floods, leading to direct economic impacts, long-term disruption to communities, and cascading disruption to other infrastructure services that rely on the integrity of the transport network. Many of the strategic links have been built without any particular flooding protection criteria, and their frequency of use has outstripped their design specification.
A particular problem, and focus of this research, is the vulnerability of bridges. In 2009 the Cumbria region suffered £3m in repair and replacement costs due to the collapse or severe damage of 29 bridges, however the economic and societal costs were significantly larger (e.g. the increased travel time was estimated to cost businesses as much as £2m per week). Understanding the risks associated with the failure or limited serviceability of bridges is a key priority identified in the National Flood Resilience Review and in the Climate Change Risk Assessment. Whilst monitoring and structural analysis can help identify bridges that are susceptible to failure, it is also necessary to understand the implications of their failure on the wider transport network to enable risk-based decision-making and prioritisation of limited funds for maintenance and enhancing national resilience.
This fellowship proposal will address this crucial priority, through the development of a novel national, and more detailed regional, assessment model for bridge failures from high river flows. By working with key stakeholders the regional and national model will be co-designed to enable it to be used independently by these organisations to support their decision-making. The work contributes to the LWEC vision by aressing two themes: (1) UK cities system as a system of interconnected cities: (2) environmental risk to networks and understanding of the potential and implications of failure at national level. Moreover, it supports the EPSRC 'Resilient Nation' Prosperity Outcome by delve into robust functioning of complex infrastructures.
The fellowship will also provide the springboard to accelerate my academic career and develop an independent research direction. The work will be conducted at Newcastle University, where there is a diverse portfolio of RCUK funded pioneering research on infrastructure and flooding, providing the ideal research environment for this fellowship. Secondments to leading international research institutions will provide a broader perspective and build my network of collaborators.