Different levels of climate resilience in the transport sector

The transport sector is vulnerable to weather variations and long-term changes in climate, but not all operators have long-term strategies in place to adapt to climate change. ToPDAd interviewed some key stakeholders to assess what information or support they need to develop their adaptation strategies.

Climate change is influencing transport

Weather extremes have a direct impact on rail, ports, air and road transport. Extreme rainfall or heat can cause damage to infrastructure like railway tracks and catenary, roads or bridges. They can lead to perturbations of traffic and operations, or put the health of travelers at risk. 

Extreme weather events are set to increase due to climate change. On the longer term, global warming will also influence weather patterns, and cause increases in temperature or precipitation, or sea level rises. Operators must also take this into account and anticipate, for instance, higher air conditioning costs or longer runways for some airports.

Representatives from SNCF in France; Network Rail in UK, the Ministry of Transport in Spain and Eurocontrol in Belgium, interviewed by ToPDAd, are well aware of the risks that climate change poses to their operations and about the need to adapt.

"Given the long life time of our investments– 40 years for a railway car and 100 years for tracks and bridges, it is essential that these are climate-proof,” said a SNCF agent. "We invest 2 million euro each year, so climate adaption is important.” 

From monitoring to long-term adaptation strategies

While most operators use weather services and early warning systems to prepare for potential disturbances on the short term, not all have mapped vulnerabilities on the longer term or developed adaptation strategies. 

Spain has done relatively little work on the impact of climate change on transport. ToPDAD was told at CEDEX - the ministry of transport: "Nobody is really busy with this problem, except a few experts. There is no clear strategy yet.” 

Also in the air traffic sector the awareness of the problem is quite limited. "The sector’s main concerns are short-term variability of weather conditions and other perturbations, but I feel there is a lack of concern for the longer term changes in climate”, we heard at Eurocontrol. However, there are some islands of resilience: "Some countries like the UK and Norway have made a larger effort. Especially the adaptation plan of London Heathrow is good” 

Also British Network rail is well prepared, "Climate change adaptation is being embedded in our key processes”. 

Operators need better data and tools 

Operators like Network Rail, SNCF and Spain’s RENFE, have come a long way in developing tools to assess their vulnerability, based on data of meteorological services. 

Asked about what additional data or tools they need, the interviewed stakeholders mentioned a tool that would allow them to learn about adaptation strategies and experiences from other European countries. 

They also expressed the need for a tool that would integrate all available climate change data parameters and fine-tune them at regional level. Several respondents are also looking for information across sectors. 

Supporting EU initiatives

There is a range of EU-initiatives to support operators of the transport sector as they are developing their adaptation strategies, including these:

  • ·         the ToPDAd toolset and case-themes have transport as one of the key themes, along with energy and tourism. The toolset will support transport operators to assess costs and vulnerability under different adaptation options. The case-themes on transport look at firstly, the exploitation prospects of the Northern Sea Route as Arctic sea ice retreats, and secondly, the impact of informing travelers in case of extreme weather.
  • ·         the Climate-ADAPT platform helps users to access and share information on expected climate change, vulnerability of regions and sectors, national and transnational adaptation strategies, case studies and tools. Also ToPDAd’s results will be included in Climate-ADAPT. 
  • ·         The MOWE-IT project identifies existing best practices and is developing methodologies to assist transport operators, authorities and transport system users to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather phenomena on transport system performance.


Subscribe to Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address to the right to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Logos of the participants of ToPDAd
Participants of ToPDAd: Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT, The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, CICERO Senter Klimaforskning Stiftelse, Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftlich Strukturforschung MBH, University of East Anglia, Transport & Mobility Lueven NV, Ilmatieteen Laitos, Joanneum Research Forschungsgesellschaft MBH
7th Framework Programme (FP7)