Case Study - Highways Agency: Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Client: Highways Agency
Sector: the transport sector, central government
Services delivered: overview , strategic risk management , asset management

The Highways Agency network plays a vital role in supporting the everyday lives of individuals and communities, and is crucial to the success of the UK’s economy. Each year, vehicles travel more than 130 billion kilometres on the network and it carries approximately one-third of all road traffic in England and nearly two-thirds of all heavy freight traffic.

Climate affects many of the HA’s activities – higher winds and extreme temperatures affect the behaviour of bridges, higher rainfall tests the capacity of drainage systems, combined higher average temperatures and rainfall extend the growing season of grass, trees and other plants on roadside verges – needing more regular maintenance. The HA needs to ensure it can continue to provide an effective road network in the context of a changing climate.

Risk Solutions worked with consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, Gifford and the Met Office to develop a risk-based Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the HA. Our approach drew on recent work by the HA, the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern Review, as well as on recent work done by Risk Solutions for Defra, examining the potential impacts of climate change to UK business. From this, we were able to identify and assess the Agency’s vulnerabilities to climate change, and develop a method for analysing adaptation options and developing action plans for addressing these vulnerabilities.

The method takes account of the many uncertainties associated with climate change. It allows an iterative approach to options analysis, adopting a simple approach where appropriate, but using more refined analysis where the extent of climate change, its effects on the HA or the options for dealing with it are less clear.

The first phase of the work completed in July 2008. Work is now continuing during 2008 and 2009 to develop further supporting guidance and tools to support the application of the strategy within the HA.