Transport infrastructure is facing new challenges that mark future infrastructure management and development: climate change adaptation and digitalisation and deployment of new technologies.
Adaptation to climate change
Greenhouse gas emissions are generally considered to be among the main negative impacts of transport on the environment. Within the European Union, there are several strategic documents that have determined stringent targets for limiting of greenhouse gas production from transport.
In addition, climate change is already having an impact on infrastructure development and biodiversity. Adapting to climate change is therefore a big challenge for transport infrastructure planning, design and operation (see Chapter 5 – Solution to mitigate impacts and benefit nature). This adaptation means:
- The adaptation of transport infrastructure to handle anticipated extreme climate events– bridges over watercourses and culverts must be large enough for increased water flows and extreme floods, infrastructure must be resistant against landslides. In dry regions, it is essential to maintain the fire resistance of adjacent areas.
- Climate change effects result in increased movement of animals looking for new, suitable habitats. This increases the needs for transport infrastructure, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to ensure infrastructure is sufficiently permeable for wildlife.
- The increase of flooding phenomena demands more often inspection and maintenance of both culverts and wildlife passages.
- A wide range of important small plant and animal species can use road verges for migration. As an adaptation to climate change, special management of habitats on transport linear infrastructure verges is required to facilitate this migration.
Adaptation to climate change must therefore be applied to the whole life cycle of transport infrastructure and should be considered as a factor that is intimately related to biodiversity management. While this is a new approach in the development of transport infrastructure, it is expected that the coming years will become mainstream in infrastructure planning.
Adoption of new technologies
Digitalisation and other new technologies are playing a key role to manage more efficiently and holistically the whole project life cycle. It is likely that in the future all phases will be managed by integrated management systems built on new technologies. One example of those systems which is already being used and gaining increasing recognition is the Building Information Modelling (BIM). This is providing opportunities to improve coordination between transport and biodiversity topics, and for following-up all process of monitoring and evaluation of the mitigation measures effectiveness.