Having attended the Slope Engineering and Geotechnical Asset Management 2013 conference on 20 November, I welcome how you have broadened the scope of the conference.
With many major infrastructure asset owners now developing more sophisticated risk-based decision frameworks, debating and understanding how this applies to geotechnical assets is very topical.
Observations from the period of severe rainfall throughout much of 2012 showed a significant increase in annual earthworks failures on the Network Rail network.
My own observations of earthworks failures on the Highways Agency Area 9 network, covering the West Midlands Region, confirm the high level of uncertainty involved in predicting where and when failures will occur.
Many sites of pre-existing failures that are being monitored for signs of progressive failure showed the high rainfall levels had no effect, while failures did occur on previously stable earthworks not identified as having any significant risk factors. The inventory data and maintenance regime for drainage proved to be at least as significant as problematic geotechnical materials per se.
Making effective value-based decisions on pro-active or reactive maintenance and remediation strategies will be dependent on comprehensive inventory, condition data and risk processes. But the most important element will be models based on a deep understanding of the interaction of risk factors derived from back analysis of failures and what they teach us about what we do (and don’t) know.
Christina Jackson, Amey, Christina.Jackson@amey.co.uk