Scottish Canals: Flexible Planning for Climate Impacts

Case Study On-going
Date added: 15/04/2019

Peter Robinson is the Head of Engineering at Scottish Canals. A flexible and responsive approach to asset management is helping ensure that Scotland’s network of canals is maintained to ensure long term safety and sustainability.

Flexible planning to manage uncertain climate impacts:

‘We are responsible for managing over 4100 assets that comprise our five Scottish canals, as well as the bridges, buildings, locks, water supply reservoirs and landmarks like the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies that make up Scotland’s inland waterways network. Much of this 140-mile network is inland, with only 6 coastal connections that are vulnerable to rising sea levels. The rest of the network is reasonably resilient to climate impacts in the short term, and can even contribute to resilience more broadly through initiatives such as the Glasgow Smart Canal Project. The Smart Canal is helping to manage flood risk and move water resources during projected hotter and drier summers (PI1B).

Each one of our diverse assets has unique management and maintenance challenges which must be addressed to ensure that they remain safe and available for the millions of visitors who use our network each year. In the long term climate change will alter the way our assets deteriorate, and our Asset Management Strategy ensures that when making management decisions we now take climate impacts into consideration, such as potential changes in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather that will contribute to the deterioration of assets (PI2C).

To respond to uncertainty around how climate change will interact with our assets in the long term, we have developed a flexible planning approach to manage our assets in a way that is responsive to emerging risks (PI2D). The Asset Management Strategy outlines how we will manage our priorities until 2030 to ensure the safety and long term sustainability of our assets. This long-term strategic direction is delivered through a 3 year forward looking Asset Management Plan that is reviewed and updated on an annual basis. This flexible management cycle allows us to take new and emerging risks into account, including those related to climate change (PI4A).

Our approach combines long term planning with short-term flexibility and risk-based responsiveness. Climate change will bring new, and sometimes unanticipated, challenges that may threaten the safety of the public or cause disruption to interconnected transport infrastructure if not addressed.

Our flexible, risk-based approach to asset management is agile and responsive to direct and indirect climate impacts, allowing us to prioritise and plan a work programme that keeps Scotland’s canals safe and productive.’

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On 14th August 2019, Adaptation Scotland held a webinar to introduce the capability framework. As part of this, Peter Robinson introduced participants to the Scottish Canals' Asset Management Strategy:

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