Councils assess resilience of Devon’s roads and critical infrastructure

The resilience of Devon’s road network was the focus of discussions between senior local authority directors and civil servants at an event in Exeter last week [Thursday 7 August].

The meeting, which was held by local authorities and ADEPT, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport, looked at the challenges of managing roads across the county - especially during severe weather incidents such as flooding and snow – against a backdrop of cuts to local authority funding.

Heather Barnes, Strategic Director, Devon County Council, said:

“We have the largest road network in the country and last winter’s severe weather resulted in 4600 incidents of flooding and 1340 fallen trees, as well as landslips and pot holes.  These incidents generate substantial additional costs which have built on those from previous years so we are faced, year on year, with mounting costs ranging from £5m to £18m extra each time.  

“The Government’s recent extra financial help has been very welcome but there are constraints on the amount of time we have to spend it.  To manage this, we have worked really closely with our contractor, locating our colleagues together to improve communication and pool resources. 

“We are also working with businesses to understand how the severe weather impacted upon them and what we can do to minimise future disruption and help them prosper.”

Attendees also heard from Nick Baveystock, Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), who gave an update on ICE’s 2014 State of the Nation report which grades the UK’s infrastructure networks based on performance, capacity and condition. Whilst our energy and waste management infrastructure has marginally improved since 2010, and strategic transport links and water management have remained static, flood management and local transport infrastructure has deteriorated. 

ICE would like to see a more holistic approach to flood management and a long-term capital funding programme which protects funding beyond the current cycle.  In terms of the local transport network, they argue for greater decentralisation of powers and funding through the creation of more fully integrated transport authorities in city regions, so decisions on local roads, rail, bus networks, ticketing and fares are made by those with knowledge of the area.

Nick Baveystock said:

“The UK’s infrastructure networks face increasing challenges from more frequent extreme weather events and the demands of a growing population.  If we are to have infrastructure that is more resilient for the future, government and industry must start thinking ahead.

“We must also recognise however, that while we need to build our resilience, it is not possible to be resilient to every eventuality – nor is it cost effective – and so it will become increasingly difficult to operate all infrastructure networks, at all times, in all conditions. We will need to decide what networks can and should operate 24/7 in what conditions, then we can then plan - avoiding costly unplanned disruptions – and adapt. Management of the public’s expectations on availability during adverse conditions will of course need to form a key part of this process.” 

ENDS

For more information, please contact Kathryn Williams at Coast Communications on 01579 352600 or 07783 292652 or email kathryn@coastmarcoms.co.uk 

About ADEPT

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) represents local authority county, unitary and metropolitan Directors. Operating at the strategic tier of local government, membersare responsible for delivering public services that primarily relate to the physical environment and the economy, but which have a significant impact on all aspects of the nation’s well-being. ADEPT represents members' interests by proactively engaging central Government on emerging policy & issues, promoting initiatives aimed at influencing Government policy and through the development of best practices and responding to European and UK Government initiatives and consultations.

For more information on ADEPT please visit the website www.adeptnet.org.uk

ICE's State of the Nation report can be found by visiting www.ice.org.uk/State-of-the-Nation

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