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South West Transport and Flood Management "At Risk"

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9:13am 27th June 2014

A report grades transport and flood management in places like Cornwall "at risk."

The Institution of Civil Engineers warns more extreme weather and crumbling infrastructure could leave the South West vulnerable.

Its 'State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014' report graded the region in the following areas:

·         Transport: Grade D "at risk"

·         Flood Management: Grade D "at risk"

·         Energy: Grade B "adequate for now"

·         Water: Grade B "adequate for now"

·         Waste: Grade B+ plus "adequate for now"

The winter storms left the Duchy cut off when the train line at Dawlish collapsed.

Homes and businesses from Looe and Bude to Penzance were flooded.

Chris Wilson has a holiday cottage on the Prom: "It started with the spray coming up over these lamp posts, landing on the roofs and then pouring down and filling the garden. But then the road - it became part of the sea because effectively the storm drains couldn't cope with the water because the tide was so high.

"Obviously what are concern is, is that if we have more storms it's going to be the same again and I'm getting too old to be bailing for about three and a half hours, buckets over a wall."

The ICE welcomed the progress since 2010, in positioning infrastructure as a core enabler of economic growth. But it said more needed to be done on the issue of resiliency given its impact on the regional economy and the major challenges ahead for the South West given the fragility of its infrastructure.

This was highlighted by the D or "at risk" grades given for both Flood Management and Transport.

The report said that while championing new headline projects is important, given the limits on resources, existing assets and services must be effectively maintained and improved, and not neglected.  

It also called for a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to flood risk management to help build resilience.

ICE South West Regional Member of Council, Richard Fish, said: "Flooding is a major risk to the South West; a relatively small amount of water in critical places can cause serious damage and cut off areas of the region. A lot of the region is also made up of historical defences which are not funded through the current flood defence framework and there is serious possibility of major failures in the future, this would have a significant impact on not just local areas but the whole region.

"Our transport network is also rapidly deteriorating. With a limited arterial road network, a single route in and out of the west by rail, significantly reduced rural public transport and airline flight reductions from some airports, severe weather can easily cut off large areas of the region with disastrous effects on the economy and population.

"Without effective maintenance, our infrastructure will deteriorate further, and this requires investment. Given the limited resources available, it is time for resilience and maintenance to take precedence over new projects.

"This means putting in place realistic plans to protect what we have and build resilience into the networks. But, we must recognise that our infrastructure cannot be resilient to everything and as extreme weather becomes more common place, it will become more difficult to operate all infrastructure networks at all times, in all conditions.  A shift in the public’s expectation on infrastructure availability will therefore be needed.

"Nothing is perfect, our Energy network has potential but could quickly deteriorate with the closure of Hinkley; recycling of waste has done well to date in the region, but to achieve EU aims a lot more needs to be done; and currently we don’t have a water shortage in the South West, but plans need to be put in place to protect our water supply in coming years. Nothing stands still; we will always need to move forward to protect the region for the future."

9:13am 27th June 2014

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