Better use of technical knowledge can cut maintenance costs for infrastructure

Municipal authorities and their advisers need a better understanding of the opportunities afforded by technical solutions and new developments to mitigate the high maintenance costs associated with land subsidence. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by Deltares and CROW, which also found that newly-developed and existing knowledge is not tested adequately in field conditions.

Optimisation of the management and maintenance strategy

Extra maintenance costs for roads and sewers associated with soft soil in the Netherlands have been estimated at 250 million a year. This is a major burden on council budgets. In some places, costs are so high that the local authorities lack the financial resources to complete all the maintenance work that piles up. The main obstacles to the optimisation of the maintenance and management strategy were identified in consultation with civil servants, infrastructure managers, contractors and consultancies. In addition, the study also looked at possible ways of eliminating those obstacles.

1. Measuring and monitoring subsidence and the interpretation of subsidence patterns

Possible solution: definition of measurement objectives, quantification and statement as reduction of maintenance costs

2. Updating of available knowledge and knowledge management
Possible solution: flexibilisation and updating of changing knowledge and a standardised approach to the evaluation of projects

3. Technical innovations

Possible solution: development of standardised evaluation approaches for technologies used (both new and old). Innovative pilot projects

4.Conflicting interests of actors

Possible solution: an actor analysis (interests, influence, description of goals). Definition and quantification of room for manoeuvre in technology and policy

The exploratory study is the first step towards an improved maintenance strategy. The next step will involve the further elaboration of the possible solutions in a multi-year programme. In order to achieve this, possible financing options for this programme are now being explored.