Dr Elco Koks wins prestigious Veni grant, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO)

ITRC Researcher Dr Elco Koks has been awarded a prestigious Veni grant, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The Veni is a 250,000 Euro research grant, targeted at outstanding researchers who have recently obtained their PhD. Over the next four years, Elco will work on improving resilience of global trade to climate extremes. His research project will quantify the vulnerability of global trade to climate extremes, and provides guidance in the development of successful adaptation measures. To do so, a first-of-its-kind high-resolution disaster impact modelling framework will be developed, designed to estimate disruptions in global trade, integrating geospatial global databases and supply-chain impact assessment models.

Dr Elco Koks led the ITRC-Mistral team in conjunction with other researchers from the University of Oxford, the World Bank, and the European Commission Joint Research Centre in the pioneering study A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets, published by Nature Communications.

This is the first study which quantifies global risks of multiple natural hazards on road and rail infrastructure. Natural hazards include hurricanes, earthquakes, tropical cyclones, surface, river, and coastal flooding.

To carry out the modelling, the researchers used state-of-the art global hazard mapping, combined with innovative analysis of approximately 50 million km of transport network data included in OpenStreetMap, and assumptions about the fragility and (re)construction of transport infrastructure derived from a variety of sources.

In the study, they evaluated that damage to road and rail infrastructure due to natural disasters could result in annual costs on average of approximately $14.6 billion, globally.

Improving transport planning through systematically considering risks and protecting assets from planning stage can save billions

Small additional investments at planning stage result in dramatic savings when natural disasters hit.

“The benefits of the additional cost of building in more resilience can easily be offset by higher efficiency in spending and service delivery, which can halve total spending needs,” explains co-author Dr Conrad Zorn, of the University of Oxford and ITRC-MISTRAL.

Building in additional resilience such as improved road design for better drainage and including flood barriers at planning stage, at an additional cost of around 2% of the road value, could result in financial savings of 60% of all the roads that are exposed to at least one flood event or more; and of over 80% of the primary and secondary roads flooded on average every year in upper middle income and tertiary roads in lower and middle income countries.

“The mapping and analysis carried out for this paper could be carried out on a more granular scale for individual governments or countries,” adds co-author Professor Jim Hall of the University of Oxford and Principal Investigator of ITRC-MISTRAL. “This methodology can be used to identify where the single points of highest risk and vulnerability are in their transport infrastructure system. It can also identify risks to take into account when planning new road and rail systems.”

The research was funded by a grant from the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council to the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC). ITRC is currently researching other impacts on infrastructure such as the impact and cost of disruption to supply chains in global transport networks, including quantifying direct and indirect losses to particular countries from impacts anywhere in the world.