Research highlight

Environment: Global cost of damage to transport infrastructure evaluated

Nature Communications

June 26, 2019

Damage to road and rail infrastructure due to natural disasters could result in annual costs, on average, of approximately US $14.6 billion globally, according to a paper in Nature Communications. The modelling study suggests around 73% of this damage would be due to surface water (caused by extreme rainfall) and river flooding.

Elco Koks and colleagues used global road and railway asset data and hazard maps to calculate the exposure and risk to transport infrastructure from natural disasters, including tropical cyclones, earthquakes, surface flooding, river flooding and coastal flooding. The authors found that around 27% of global transport infrastructure is exposed to at least one hazard and the cost of global expected annual damages could range from $3.1 - 22 billion. They identified that the transport infrastructure of small island developing states, such as Papua New Guinea, are particularly vulnerable to these hazards. However, although the greatest absolute damages were observed in high income countries, such as China and Japan, middle income countries, such as Georgia and Myanmar, are at higher risk relative to GDP.

The authors argue that it is crucial that countries improve transport planning by including risk information in their assessments. This could help minimize spending on all assets by targeting key improvements to prevent damage from natural hazards.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10442-3

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