TfL plans more trees and better drainage to adapt London to changing climate
Transport for London (TfL) has set out its first climate adaptation plan, promising better drainage systems and nature-based solutions for cooling to ensure that public transport systems can run in the decades to come.
Commuters in London last year may have experienced disruption as tube and bus infrastructure struggled to cope with extreme weather events made more likely and more intense by climate change. TfL customers were advised against travelling during Storm Eunice in February 2022 and then again in the height of the July 2022 heatwave, for example. Then, in August and November 2022, flash flooding rendered some tube stations and lines unusable.
TfL has stated that it needs to spearhead better adaptation planning as these kinds of weather become more common in the coming decades, if it is to ensure that its network is “safe, reliable and sustainable”. It has, therefore, published its first climate change adaptation plan this week.
The plan is based on several climate scenarios from the Met Office. Even if emissions are cut in line with climate science, the Met Office is forecasting hotter, drier summers and hotter, wetter winters. It is forecasting a 1-6C increase in average summer day temperatures, plus a 1-4.5C increase in average winter day temperatures, across London by 2070 against a 1990 baseline. It is also forecasting up to 30% more rain in winter and an increase in the frequency of hot spells from once every four years to four times a year.
Much of the plan centres around improving data collection on climate risk and embedding climate risk considerations into all capital investment projects more robustly.
Milestones are also set out to improve severe weather forecasting and related customer communications via investments in digital technology, and to look more deeply into how severe weather impacts specific assets.
Collaborating with other key stakeholders to install new infrastructure is a major focus. TfL has, for example, already committed to add sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to all project designs by the end of 2023 and to deploy 50,000 square metres of SuDS every year from 2030. An interim target to deploy 5,000 square metres this year has now been set.
Other infrastructure being explored include green roofs, rainwater-harvesting gardens and on-street trees – all of which can provide shade and cooling during hot periods, and reduce the amount and speed of surface-water run-off. There are no specific targets for deploying a certain amount of these solutions within a set timeframe yet.
Delivering the plan, TfL has stated, will require staff communications and upskilling. It is looking to ensure that new staff joining in the future complete specific climate-adaptation-related training, and to ensure that each relevant department has at least one expert in the field.
TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer, Lilli Matson, said the plan is the organisations “invitation” to the organisations it works with to collaborate for climate resilience.
“Working together will help us to build a more sustainable transport network for all Londoners – both now and in the future,” Matson said. “In recent years we have experienced flooding, storms and heatwaves across the capital, causing safety incidents, widespread disruption and delays to our network, as well as financial challenges. Our challenge is to adapt our systems to reduce the impacts of climate change, and ensure that we are resilient in the face of more extreme and frequent weather events across London.”
Earlier this year, the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) published a briefing urging increased public spending on climate adaptation, paired with new mandates for regulators and new measures to stop poorly-adapted projects from passing through policy loopholes. The CCC estimates that up to £10bn will need to be funnelled into adaptation in the UK each year through to 2030.
The CCC is also urging measures to improve climate reporting from organisations operating key energy, water, transport and digital infrastructure. edie has been told to expect a new progress report on climate adaptation in England before the end of March.