The ITRC team at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford was appointed to work with the Commission to trial an approach to understanding the vulnerabilities in the interdependent multi-sector infrastructure networks. The objective of the research was to:

  1. Pilot an approach to assess the key physical vulnerabilities of the current UK economic infrastructure system
  2. Draw out vulnerabilities that arise from network architecture and how these are likely to change in the future
  3. Inform the development of a framework to identify actions to assess, improve and monitor the resilience of the system.
  4. Inform further development of the approach.

The pilot uses network modelling techniques to capture ‘functional dependencies’ – dependencies where one asset relies on another to function – between the assets in the water supply, rail, strategic road, electricity and telecoms sectors. The approach models how failures could cascade through the cross-sector system and determines the scale of the impact of the disruptions both in terms of the proportion of the population effected and the size of the economic impact.

The results show how, with future development, this approach could help to understand cascade failures, how different ways to enhance resilience can be compared, and how opportunities for improving resilience could arise from planned changes to the networks.