Anticipate, React, Recover: Resilient infrastructure systems
The past is not always the best guide to the future and proactive steps are needed to ensure the UK’s infrastructure can remain resilient, according to a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission. The Commission has set out a new framework to help support change across infrastructure sectors and is calling for transparent standards of appropriate service levels, stress testing for major incidents and clearer direction for utilities providers to invest in long term resilience. Together, the report finds, these steps will ensure the country’s infrastructure can better resist, absorb and recover from shocks. The evidence base used in the study was undertaken before the current Covid-19 pandemic, and the report notes that it is too early to fully assess and learn lessons from the ongoing crisis. Anticipate, React, Recover: Resilient infrastructure systems instead focuses on previous disruptions and failures and the response of the UK’s energy, water, digital, road and rail infrastructure over a longer timeframe – drawing on examples including the wide scale power outage of August 2019 and the various incidents of flooding experienced in the UK over recent years. It also highlights the impact on New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005: a failure to adapt infrastructure to respond to a changing climate and population growth led to a catastrophic impact on the city and its people. The Commission warns that the UK’s generally robust historic resilience may be challenged in future by a range of factors that will not always be possible to foresee, alongside better understood challenges like climate change.