Measuring Transport Resilience: A Manawatu-Wanganui Region Case Study

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Resource and Environmental Planning, Massey University
The resilience of transport networks is attracting greater scrutiny at the international, national and sub-national levels. This research report explores the current state of knowledge about measuring transport resilience and presents a case study to address the question is: How resilient is the road and rail infrastructure in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region? This region in New Zealand’s lower North Island provides an interesting case study due to its strategic location in the North Island’s and indeed New Zealand’s transport network. In addition, it has experienced significant disruptions in the recent past, most notably widespread failures caused by flooding in 2004, and the lengthy closure of a significant inter-regional road connection, the Manawatu Gorge State Highway 3 road, due to a landslide in 2011-2012. It also provides an opportunity to explore this topic outside of a major metropolitan region. The region’s transport networks and infrastructure also have important social and economic functions. This research report is structured around a proposed Transport Resilience Indicator Framework (RIF) which explores six key dimensions of transport infrastructure resilience: engineering, services, ecological, social, economic and institutional. This holistic approach to measuring transport resilience and is envisaged to accommodate both qualitative and quantitative indicators. Within this framework, data were gathered via analysis of secondary sources and nine key informant interviews. The interview participants were from public sector agencies responsible for managing aspects of the region’s transport network, the private sector and one social service provider. The participants had considerable knowledge relating to the planning of the road network and/or its economic and social significance. They also had knowledge of the impacts and/or management of recent disruptions. The institutions responsible for managing the region’s transport network can identify vulnerabilities in the network, but can also collaborate and learn from past disruptions. Concerns were expressed about the level of funding for maintaining and upgrading the region’s transport networks, particularly for territorial authorities with large networks and small rates bases. The region is strongly dependent on the roading network, with limited alternatives during roading network disruptions. It proved difficult to quantify the environmental impacts of transport disruptions. A case study of the response of a local ii health shuttle service provided an example of how a community, by drawing on social capital, was able to adapt and respond appropriately to a transport disruption. One key area identified for further research is assessing the capacity of private contractors to respond to natural hazard events of varying magnitudes. The RIF could also be strengthened by the use of indicators based on quantitative data, in addition to qualitative data. It is suggested that one method of achieving this could this could be to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on expertise, methods and perspectives from related professions, such as engineering and economics. [Executive summary]