Tougher government regulation is needed to meet the extreme weather challenges that have caused devastating floods in large areas of the UK, according to a leading engineering expert.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said much more work was needed to strengthen the resilience of the country’s infrastructure.
He said: “The flooding seen in many parts of the UK recently, together with the railway sea wall collapse at Dawlish, illustrates the urgent need for substantially more work to be done on increasing the resilience of the country’s infrastructure.
“Extreme weather events are likely to occur more frequently in the future and this, combined with rising sea-levels, present significant threats to our infrastructure which has largely be designed for past conditions.
“The sooner we adapt the engineered systems that provide our energy, water, drainage, transport and communications, as well as our villages, towns and cities, the better.
“Not only will this potentially help save lives and livelihoods, as well as reduce the widespread failures and disruption we’ve seen recently, but could also prove cheaper in the long-term.
“In order to help adapt our country to these changes, there is a need for tougher government regulation that demands all new, and existing, critical infrastructure are engineered to standards that can cope with the anticipated extreme weather events and sea level rises.
“In cases where this is not possible or viable, the infrastructure should be replaced and if necessary relocated.
“Government cannot solely rely on companies and organisations voluntarily spending money and resources on adapting their infrastructure to be more resilient without regulatory intervention.
“Adaptation of existing and new infrastructure will however be expensive and it is unlikely that society will be prepared to bear the cost of a fully resilient country.
“There needs to be an honest dialogue with the public that future-proofing our country against heavy rainfall, increased storminess, rising sea-levels and higher temperatures, while cheaper in the long-term, comes with substantial associated up-front costs.
“In some cases they may not wish to pay this, but instead accept periods of reduced service from infrastructure during times of extreme weather or sea-level related disruption. We need to be realistic.”