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Climate change and the management of embankments and dykes

A 2-day collaborative workshop between the UK-based ACHILLES team and TU Delft, with a special session devoted to discussions with key stakeholders.

Date: Thursday 22 & Friday 23 September 2022

Venue: Theatre Hall in the X-building at TU Delft, Mekelweg 8, 2628 CD Delft

Infrastructure is fundamental to our economy and society. Geotechnical long linear assets (LLAs) are major infrastructure components and fundamental to the delivery of critical services over long distances. Earthwork failures break links in these vital chains. There are some 10,200 km of flood defences in the UK; 80,000 km of highways; 15,800 km of railways. Failure of these assets is common. For example, in 2015 there were 143 earthworks failures on the national rail network. The resulting cost of failure is high. For example, for Network Rail, emergency repairs cost 10 times more than planned works, which cost 10 times more than regular maintenance. And vulnerability to these failures is significant; derailment from slope failure is the greatest infrastructure-related risk faced by our railways. As the infrastructure becomes older its condition deteriorates. In addition, it is ever more intensively used and subject to increasingly extreme weather patterns. These factors combine to significantly increase the likelihood of future failures. Climate change has been identified as one of the dominant factors driving this change.

Recognition of these vulnerabilities and gaps in our knowledge to address these has resulted in the EPSRC (the UK funding body supporting research in engineering and physical sciences) to support a unique research opportunity uniting 6 academic institutions (Newcastle, Loughborough, Durham, Southampton, Bath and Leeds) and the British Geological Survey, coalescing our field, laboratory and computing facilities. Combined with a large cohort of PhD students and an experienced stakeholder community in close collaboration as project partners, we undertake world-leading science and create a long-term legacy. Recent research by the ACHILLES research team has provided novel insights into the reasons for and timing of failure.

At TU Delft there continues to be intense research activity relating to flood defence and transport infrastructures, with the impact of climate change, ageing, increasing frequency and magnitude of applied loadings, and changes to national design guidelines being topics of particular interest. Recent and current research projects include the NWO projects Reliable Dykes, Sustainable Dykes and All-Risk, and RESET: Reliable Embankments for the Safe Expansion in Rail Traffic, a new joint venture between ProRail, TU Delft and Deltares.

We shared our latest developments at this interactive workshop. We also discussed the challenges to bring together new advances in research and technology with industry-led advances in design and asset management practice from different LLAs to reduce the risks posed to infrastructure systems from deterioration and future change.


Chairman’s opening remarks – Prof Michael Hicks, TU Delft, NL

Climate change impacts on UK embankments – the ACHILLES perspective – Prof Stephanie Glendinning, Newcastle University, UK

Managing  geotechnical assets in the Netherlands – Ir Henk van Hemert, Rijkswaterstaat, NL

Deterioration – processes and parameters – Dr Kevin Briggs, Bath University, UK

Modelling geo-materials/establishing properties – Dr Stefano Muraro, TU Delft, NL

Validated embankment models – Dr Amr Morsy, Loughborough University, UK

Modelling embankments/dykes – a perspective from the Netherlands – Prof Cristina Jommi, TU Delft, NL

Uncertainty and heterogeneity for geotechnical asset modelling – Prof Michael Hicks, TU Delft, NL

Emulating asset models – Dr Alex Svalova, Newcastle University, UK

An introduction to research at TU Delft – Prof Michael Hicks, TU Delft, NL

Setting the scene – The ACHILLES research – Prof Stephanie Glendinning, Newcastle University, UK

Industry presentations – Ir Joost van der Schrier, Royal Haskoning, NL

Industry presentations – Ir Patricia Ammerlaan, Boskalis, NL