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Building a Community to Enhance Urban Infrastructure Resilience to Flooding

Building a Community to Enhance Urban Infrastructure Resilience to Flooding

Flood Resilience for the Transport Sector aims to establish a community around urban resilience to climate, looking at addressing current gaps in assessing and reducing flooding impact to transport networks.


The mission of our GW4 research community Flood Resilience for the Transport Sector (FR-Trans) is to improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure to flooding. Our strategy is to advance the tools used by decision makers when planning for flood events. The University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter recently hosted the ‘Urban infrastructure resilience to flooding’ community event in Bristol. The event aimed to highlight existing and future challenges for urban infrastructure in the face of natural hazards such as flooding, and build a vibrant community of mixed institutions and individuals. We brought together infrastructure operators, local authorities, practitioners, engineers, environmental regulators, and scientists to build a community focused on improving the resilience of urban environments:

  • Brunel Institute (host)
  • Devon County Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Met Office
  • Arup
  • Environment Platform Wales
  • Fathom
  • Jacobs
  • South-West Infrastructure Partnership
  • West of England Combined Authorities
  • Willis Towers Watson

We hope this community can serve as an effective way of communicating existing and potential future challenges between the various interested parties. In addition, we intend to facilitate future collaborations to improve the resilience of infrastructure to flood events.


Globally, catastrophic events associated with flooding and extreme rainfall represent a major natural hazard facing societies, affecting millions of people around the world each year and causing economic losses of US$100 billion per annum. Escalating costs are an increasing concern for governments but the costs of disasters are felt most acutely at a community level and are determined by the community’s ability to absorb the impact and recover after the event. As infrastructural systems are the backbone of contemporary societies, increasing the resilience of these systems to natural hazards is essential for reducing the impact of events on communities and enhancing their ability to recover.


To achieve infrastructure resilience, local authorities and decision makers need tools which can help them anticipate, prepare, and recover from flood events. However, existing methods fail to capture the dynamic interactions between floodwater and transport systems as well as the interactions of transport systems with other infrastructure systems such as drainage, power and telecommunications. It is only when dynamic interactions between flooding and different infrastructural systems are considered that we can get a more holistic understanding of the risks posed by flooding. This more holistic understanding will then enable more robust planning and mitigation strategies.


The GW4 Alliance is allowing us to address a major societal issue in a way which pools together varying expertise from leading research institutions within the UK.  This partnership allows us to develop new lines of academic enquiry which we hope will lead to a step change in how we address the resilience of infrastructure to flooding. GW4 Generator Award funding of £20K has also allowed us to build a community which engages industrial partners through hosting workshops. This workshop, for example, highlighted the need for, and the current lack of, an holistic understanding of urban resilience (where cities are “systems of systems”) and cross-organisational collaboration among involved parties. We hope this community can serve as an effective way of communicating existing and potential future challenges between the various interested parties.


Next summer we plan to host another workshop at Cardiff University which will allow our community to continue growing, with a focus on infrastructure resilience to flooding. We want to engage with additional actors within the water sector such as water companies, the Environment Agency and Defra as well as asset owners and regulators in other sectors (including but not limited to transport, power, and telecommunications). Moreover, we intend to facilitate future collaborations and project proposals, looking to improve the resilience of infrastructure to flood consequences.

For more information, contact Maria Pregnolato* and Charles West from the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter