Recently, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) published a strategy document entitled Fit for a changing climate? Adapting the UK’s transport system

The department has set out a consultation on its resilience and adaptation plan for the coming years – and now, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) has provided its response. 

In its document, the DfT acknowledged that there was potential for climate change to disrupt the country’s operations and damage the transport network. 

What objectives did the DfT set out in its strategy? 

The ministerial department with responsibility for much of the UK’s transport network, used the Fit for a changing climate? publication to communicate a number of objectives. 

These objectives are aimed at ensuring the accessibility, safety, and reliability of transport infrastructure for day-to-day journeys up and down the UK: 

  • The transport sector will understand that the adaptation of its businesses and operations to the changing climate will be essential, with their response being built into “business as usual” 
  • The transport sector will draw upon available guidance and tools to support its prioritisation of adaption investments and the sharing of information to galvanise adaptation action 
  • The DfT will set the strategic direction for the transport sector, improving adaptation action and fostering collaboration across the sectors. 

How has CIHT responded to the DfT’s strategy document? 

In its response, CIHT said that publication of the DfT’s strategy was a “welcome” development. The learned society indicated that it regarded the document as a “first step towards a more extensive commitment from the Department to incorporate adaptation and resilience to climate change into the objectives, operations, and delivery of transport services.” 

However, the charity and membership body put forward three observations that it invited the Department to “reflect on”, adding that a failure to take “stronger actions” on certain points would constitute a “missed opportunity”. 

Those observations included:  

  • The urgent need to act immediately. The organisation said that while it appreciated that the plan set out in the document was to “gradually integrate adaptation into transport”, a target of 2026 for transport infrastructure operators to include adaptation in their objectives was “too late”. Such slowness to action, the body reasoned, presented a “risk of significant and expensive infrastructure losses”. 
  • Funding for maintenance. CIHT expressed its belief that the economic case put forward by the DfT’s strategy document overlooked the importance of maintaining already-existing transport infrastructure. The organisation called for investment to support this, stating that the incremental adaptation and proactive maintenance of the transport network were “crucial for extreme weather resilience and meeting decarbonisation goals.” 
  • Mandatory resilience risk assessments. The body also urged the DfT to make it a statutory requirement for all owners of transport assets to undertake transport resilience assessments. This, the organisation reasoned, would help to identify network vulnerabilities, prioritise remedial measures, and pinpoint who should be responsible. 

CIHT said that it offered its support to the DfT to the future developments of the strategy through its work on Resilience and adaptation to extreme weather events in the transport sector, which the organisation said is set for publication in the autumn of 2024. 

Further information on CIHT’s response to the DfT strategy document can be found on the learned society’s website

In the meantime, our own leading transport consultants at Transport Planning Associates (TPA) stand ready to help clients succeed with their projects. Please contact your closest TPA office for transport planning and infrastructure advice.