Understanding Resilience in Transport Infrastructure under Climate Change


The continued impact of climate change has enhanced the frequency and intensity of extreme flooding, which poses widespread and severe threats to transport infrastructure. Taking metros as an example, water can not only submerge the tracks above ground but can also cause damage by flowing into underground systems via entrances or ventilation shafts, leading to severe threats to public safety. In addition, as transport infrastructure is highly complex and connected networks, the dependencies between elements introduce additional vulnerabilities that can lead to cascading failures and disruptions to millions of trips. Past extreme flood events have evidenced that, when dealing with extreme scenarios, we need to shift infrastructure safety management to a resilience-oriented mindset: planning for safe-to-fail mechanisms and recovering from disruptions with minimal loss. In this context, the trend toward building resilience in transport infrastructure in the face of climate change is accelerating.

Transport systems and flooding

This lecture has three parts. The first introduces
the ongoing impacts of climate change and the increasing flood challenges
facing transport infrastructure systems. It also presents two critical mindsets
of engineering safety management: risk and resilience – what they are and why
we encourage adopting a resilience mindset to cope with extreme scenarios.

The second part demystifies the resilience
of infrastructure systems by introducing the concept, attributes (4Rs), and
dimensions (TOSE). This is followed by an explanation of the classic
“resilience triangle curve” for infrastructure resilience assessment.

The third part illustrates a network
modelling-based approach for infrastructure resilience assessment through a
case study of measuring the flood resilience of the London urban rail transit

The topic of analysing the resilience of
infrastructure systems falls under the broad umbrella of construction
management. It is an interdisciplinary topic that could cover the fields of
civil engineering, systems engineering, and management science. When
introducing network modelling to simulate the structure and dynamics of
infrastructure systems, the topic further covers the knowledge of network
science, which is another academic field with theories and methods including
graph theory from mathematics, statistical mechanics from physics, data mining
and information visualization from computer science, and so on.

Video Resource

Resource activities


Some questions for you to think about


Activity questions

  • 1. What are the three critical capacities of a system that could signal the quality of resilience?
  • 2. What is the fundamental difference between risk analysis and resilience analysis?
  • 3. What do nodes and edges in an urban rail transit network model represent in reality?

Reflective questions

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Task 1

What are the key arguments, concepts, points contained within it?

Task 2

What are you struggling to understand?

What could you do to improve your understanding of these concepts/terminology etc.?

Task 3

What further questions has this resource raised for you?

What else are you keen to discover about this topic and how could you go about learning more?

Can you make any links between this topic and your prior knowledge or school studies?

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Further reading

  • Resilience in engineering

    If you would like to understand more about resilience in engineering, please see “Resilience Engineered – Demystify resilience with this three-part film series”, which was developed by The Resilience Shift