A systems approach for regional infrastructure strategies

Andrew Warrington | 22 Jul 2016 | Comments

A systems approach is critical to managing the linkages and interdependencies between infrastructure sectors including transport, energy, telecommunications and water.

Devolution provides a timely opportunity to strengthen our collaborative approach to systems management, focussed on the benefits to the users of our infrastructure.

Systems approaches should be central to regional infrastructure strategies to ensure infrastructure networks are integrated and resilient. Extreme weather events highlight the interdependencies in infrastructure as they are liable to lead to cascade failure where the breakdown of one aspect of infrastructure, such as flood defences, can lead to other failures, e.g. flooded power stations leading to power cuts, which affect telecommunications networks. 

The interdependencies in infrastructure need to be managed well, especially, as it is becoming more interconnected. Broadly, the resilience response to providing both mitigation and future prevention is more practical at the local-regional level and can be effectively realised through devolution. However, for resilience planning to succeed, it will also be critical to develop an understanding of the interdependencies of infrastructure systems between new economic geographies.

Managing regional infrastructure as a system requires effective collaboration, planning and sharing of information to provide a systems resilience as well as individual sector resilience. The devolution opportunity must be taken to encourage collaboration through shared regional infrastructure strategies and investment pipelines, connected financial opportunities and an integrated approach to the skills challenge to overcome boundaries between infrastructure operators and build a picture of the state of the entire infrastructure system.

The infrastructure system fundamentally requires joined up management, long-term planning, and a regulatory and policy framework which provides certainty for investors through devolved regional strategies. 

In this year’s State of the Nation report we review the risks and opportunities for infrastructure in an age of devolution to nations, cities and regions.