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Climate change a major talking point on second day of ATRF & ARRB Conference

Day 2 of the three-day 38th ATRF Conference and 27th ARRB Conference commenced with a major topic of discussion that has received extensive news coverage over the past year – climate change.

Day 2 of the three-day 38th ATRF Conference and 27th ARRB Conference commenced with a major topic of discussion that has received extensive news coverage over the past year – climate change.Day 2 of the three-day 38th Australasian Transportation Researchers’ Forum (ATRF) Conference and 27th ARRB Conference commenced with a major topic of discussion that has received extensive news coverage over the past year – climate change.

Expanding on the key discussions from yesterday’s presentations and technical papers, attendees to the conference at the Pullman Melbourne Albert Park were given global insight into the impact of climate change, namely through infrastructure resilience and adaption to extreme events.

ARRB Group Senior Economist Transport Policy, Planning Management Caroline Evans and Associate Professor Matthew Burke from Griffith University introduced the day’s keynote speakers, all of whom shared valuable learnings and perspectives on how the planet’s rapidly changing climate may impact road and transport infrastructure, and what is being done to adapt to those changes in some cases.

Christian Axelsen, Research & Design Academic Specialist at the Danish Road Directorate, talked about the Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s (CEDA) task group and its focus on the applications and learnings involved in delivering climate change adaption strategies.

He explained how Europe was utilising certain templates for climate change adaptation strategies for infrastructure, and a key area to explore was the appropriateness of using these templates in an Australian context.

These strategies help to encourage adaptation activities to become an integrated part of any national road administrator or state road body, from planning a road to operation and maintenance. Some concepts included were as simple as creating a weather event database and recording information to show how climate change is affecting a road network over a longer period of time.

Mr. Axelsen said that adaption strategies include both hard and soft infrastructure measures – hard being concepts such as alternative road surface treatments, intelligent transport systems, levees, while soft measures incorporate coastline restoration and designing waterfronts to accommodate different water levels.

He also identified the numerous challenges involved in adapting such strategies, including political difficulties and even resource demand, both of which are key talking points when discussing the impact of climate change on road and transport infrastructure.

Michael Nolan, Chair of the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme, provided a global perspective on the complex impact of climate change for transport and infrastructure.

He explained the significance of addressing climate change through collaboration between government and the private sector, particularly as the economical costs of natural disasters are significant, and that there needs to be more cohesion between the two sectors to address that.

He exemplified Blackpool in England as a case study on the impact of climate change and how a collaborative approach helped to address the issues and even open up economic and social opportunities for the area.

The once-thriving seaside town’s tourist appeal had declined over time particularly due to the impact of rising tides against the beach and promenade pedestrian areas. As a result the national and local governments took the steps to consider a redevelopment of the coastline to address the erosion of the beach area and improve the social and economic state of the area.

The concept was to build out the area and create a more natural environment, while also protecting the road and transport system. This was done through creating steps along the promenade to accommodate the movement of the tide as sea levels rise, while also improving the pedestrian and commercial spaces.

He said the outcome was of the project was a significant increase in tourism for the area.

Mr. Nolan said there is a very strong business case for the private sector to be involved in such activities, particularly as climate change may even prevent a number of opportunities for economical benefits. He also asserted that consideration needs to be made for how the environment is impacting on us, not just on how we’re impacting on the environment.

Deputy Director-General Infrastructure Management and Delivery at the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads Miles Vass gave a local perspective, by outlining the extensive process Queensland Government went through to repair and build the resilience of the state’s road network following the flooding and cyclone events between 2011 and 2013.

The process was not just about building the resilience of the physical infrastructure, but the resilience of the community, and getting everything back to normal after the events – which were made even more complicated by the statewide impact of the events and the challenging time frames to work within.

He said as much as 80 per cent of Queensland’s road network was closed at one time during the flooding events – a serious statistic that showed the true impact of the events on the region.

Mr. Vass talked about the challenges but also opportunities that were presented in the overall program of works (known as the Transport Network Reconstruction Program), such as utilising different pavement treatments and improving the infrastructure to better withstand future events. He further explained some of the key successes, including the value for money outcomes and delivery standards that resulted.

Providing a local context for the impact of such weather events, and even climate change, presented delegates with food for thought, particularly with the topic of climate change itself such a talking point in the news media both nationally and internationally.

Like the first day of the event, the keynote presentations set the tone for the rest of the day, with numerous technical sessions and workshops covering the influence of climate change, but also other key discussions taking place on the impact of big data, emerging issues in transport technology and more.

The second day also included a dedicated session for all ATRF and ARRB poster presentations, where delegates could view the posters and engage with the presenters and authors directly.

Delegates can expect even more interesting and thought-provoking sessions on the third and final day of the conference.

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