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€5m scheme to protect road and rail links from extreme weather

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Wild weather at Lahinch, Co Clare

Wild weather at Lahinch, Co Clare

Wild weather at Lahinch, Co Clare

IRISH engineers are to lead a €5m research project to examine the impacts of extreme weather events on transport and energy infrastructure.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin will look at the threat posed to roads, the railway, power lines and communications systems by drought, rain-induced landslides, floods, winter storms and hurricanes.

The EU-funded research is being conducted amid concerns that extreme weather events will become more common as climate change takes hold.

Today, world leaders will set out how they plan to tackle global warming at a UN Summit in New York.

Researchers from the School of Engineering at TCD will conduct the RAIN project, or 'Risk Analysis of Infrastructure Networks', for extreme weather events. It is being led by Dr Alan O'Connor.

The €4.77m budget will be used to develop a risk management system that will model the impact weather events have on infrastructure. It will also develop a series of systems to cope, including early-warning protocols and engineering tools to reinstate the damaged network as soon as possible.

"The outputs of RAIN will aid decision-making in the long-term, securing new robust infrastructure development and protection of existing infrastructure against changing climates and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns," Dr O'Connor said.

"The project will highlight the most important links in the transportation networks, showing what the economic consequences are if a failure occurs in one of these transport links due to an extreme weather event."

Damage

Extreme weather has caused widespread damage across Ireland in recent years, with €46m in damage caused by flooding last December and January.

More than 5,800 households were damaged as well as almost 600 cars.

The combined bill for weather-related incidents since 2000 is more than €1.3bn,

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State railway company Iarnrod Eireann said extreme weather events had resulted in "unprecedented levels of disruption" to passengers in recent years.

In October 2011, all major rail lines in the Dublin area flooded, while in February this year, storms saw the entire network in the south and south-west brought to a standstill because of fallen trees.

"Landslides and rockfalls associated with extreme weather have also increased, the most notable incident being in Waterford in December 2013, in which 300 tonnes of material fell on to the line from the rock embankment beside the station," a spokesman added.

"Ultimately, 7,000 tonnes of material had to be removed from the site, with restricted operations in the station area ongoing still."

Hundreds of millions of euro of damage has been caused to roads due to flooding and extreme cold, while data from Met Eireann shows that average rainfall is up 5pc over the past 30 years and temperatures have risen by 0.5C.

Last winter was also the stormiest on record.


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