We looked at the impact that climate change and the soil conditions have on the minor roads network in Lincolnshire after drought-related subsidence had caused major problems in the previous decade.

Key Facts

    • We undertook environmental modelling and GIS (geographic information system)-based analysis of the impacts of climate change and soils conditions on the minor road network in Lincolnshire.
    • Road condition survey data was provided by Lincolnshire County Council, which was then combined with our own Natural Perils Directory (NPD).
    • Our research formed part of a consortium of universities, led by the University of Oxford.
    • Cranfield doctoral researcher (Dr) Oliver Pritchard helped develop the novel road vulnerability assessment used in this work.
  • Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - programme grant from the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC).

Impact of our research

Certain soil types have a statistically significant effect on road surface condition. Combining knowledge of soil-geohazard distribution has allowed highway engineers to evaluate specific treatments used on highways, with different techniques employed in areas at differing risk.

The use of new resurfacing techniques has allowed Lincolnshire County Council a cost saving of £46 per square metre of resurfacing across the 25-year design life.

Photos courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council

Why the research was commissioned

Some 98% of the UK’s roads are ‘local’; Lincolnshire’s remote and agricultural setting underlines the importance of the local road network. During the previous decade, drought-related subsidence had caused millions of pounds of structural damage. Key challenges include prioritising limited funding for roadway repair.

Both Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Institution of Civil Engineers have highlighted extreme weather and climate change as a high risk to the UK’s highway infrastructure. A recent report by the Committee on Climate Change warned that infrastructure was closely inter-dependent and that the UK could suffer a cascade effect whereby one piece of infrastructure could cause the collapse of another; therefore understanding environmental risks to our infrastructure is important.

Why Cranfield?

We have access to a unique soil subsidence and flooding extent dataset through the National Perils Directory (NPD) held in Cranfield’s unique Land Information Systems (LandIS).

Our research is highly applied, relevant and industry focused; PhD student (Dr) Oliver Pritchard was able to find immediate employment with Arup in their infrastructure advisory team as a consulting geotechnical engineer on graduating, following his work on this project.