Adaptation: Field of Action Transport

Traffic jamClick to enlarge
Extreme weather events affect transport and infrastructure.
Source: Christian Müller/

Transport systems and the associated infrastructure are classified as critical infrastructure and are of great importance for the functionality of society. For their protection and preservation, technical adaptation measures to climate change are considered particularly relevant in order to prevent damage. This also requires the overarching adaptation of planning and building standards.

Measures to adapt the navigability of inland waterways

Serious restrictions for inland navigation arise primarily from low-water situations. Floods can also impair the navigability of inland waterways and even lead to their closure. However, they usually last only a few days, so that adaptation should take place primarily with regard to low-water events.

An important component of adaptation is the maintenance and further development of forecasting systems. Early recognition of extreme runoff situations is of great importance for effective medium and low water management and transport planning.

 This allows companies to reschedule their transports in time or to use smaller ships with less draught. If necessary, shipping companies have to adapt their fleets accordingly for this. The creation of storage capacities can also help to bridge bottlenecks when shipping is severely restricted.

As the Rhine is particularly affected by future low water situations, the action plan "Low Water Rhine" was adopted. Together with representatives of large industrial enterprises in the Rhine catchment area and the inland navigation sector, eight measures were developed to ensure reliable transport conditions on the Rhine.

Measures to reduce damage to roads and railways

Most damage to roads and railways is caused by flooding and undercutting due to heavy rain or flood events. To prevent this, the planning and dimensioning of terrace-related drainage systems in particular must be adapted. This concerns drainage and pumping systems for tunnels, bridges and roads. In areas at risk of landslides or slope failures, slope stabilisation can protect individual road sections during heavy rainfall. Risks from standing water on roads can be avoided, for example, by milling out ruts or by an adapted road layout. Damage can also be limited by sufficient flooding areas along rivers and in coastal regions.

On motorways, so-called blow-ups followed by road closures occur time and again when the concrete slabs of older motorways expand in hot weather and lift abruptly as a result of the resulting stresses. This can be remedied by using heat-resistant asphalt mixtures.

As an adaptation measure for storms, the design of bridges, for example, can be adapted to improve the connection between the roadway and the foundation structure. This requires construction materials with increased stability. In addition, protective walls on roads and railways can contribute to precautionary measures.

Measures to reduce damage to traffic guidance systems, overhead lines and power supply systems

To protect traffic guidance systems from heat damage, improved cooling of the electronic components can help. Storm damage caused by fallen trees can be avoided by keeping larger aisles along the routes free of planting. Adapting tree species and vegetation composition along routes can also help.