Official modelling has mapped the increasing vulnerability of Scotland's trunk road network to extreme weather, with the number of sections deemed 'most exposed' to high winds set to rise by 300% by 2030, while flooding risks could more than double.
In the wake of a record three named storms in the last week, as well as record-breaking wind speeds battering the UK, the figures give an insight into the transport sector's fears about the rising threat to the road network from climate change.
Sections of the Scottish trunk road network described as 'most exposed' to weather events by Transport Scotland currently number 76 for flooding, two for high winds and seven for landslides.
By 2030 this is expected to rise to 179 for flooding, eight for high winds and seven for landslides. By 2050, the modelling shows a dramatic rise, with 568 sections most exposed to flooding, 22 for high winds and 14 areas vulnerable to landslides.
The figures were included in a Transport Scotland climate change exposure study.
Trevor McIlhatton, head of environment and sustainability at Transport Scotland, said that the organisation had a 'reasonable understanding of risks and vulnerable areas' following a range of studies.
Transport Scotland is still working to develop its climate change adaptation and resilience strategy and a specific trunk road network climate change adaptation and resilience plan.
These are expected to give 'a particular focus on the risks associated with changing weather patterns attributed to climate change'.
A Vulnerable Locations Group (VLOG) has already been established within Transport Scotland to 'identify and understand how the changing climate will affect the trunk road network and drive forward adaptation to keep Scotland moving safely'.
A 2021 Pilot Adaptation Programme working with VLOG had a focus on partnership working and collaboration around flooding. The schemes were 'go beyond maintenance at known vulnerable locations,' Mr McIlhatton said.
Mr McIlhatton gave an insight into the type of solutions that could be provided under Transport Scotland's future plans.
- engineering solutions such as building design and retrofit, road surfacing, flood defence investment and drainage
- nature-based solutions such as increasing plant diversity and habitats, soil conservation and increased coastal and marine vegetation, boosting green sustainable urban drainage, urban greening and peatland restoration
- new technologies that could support climate change resilience include new designs for infrastructure assets that use sensor networks, digitalisation and big data for monitoring evaluation and management
- institutional and financial changes could also see new adaptation standards, supply chain diversification and new regulations.