Post-crisis Transport Infrastructure


Post-crisis infrastructure works, whether required due to natural or 'man made' events, present unique challenges. These needs are not encountered in the everyday relatively ordered environment of planning, design, construction and maintenance of roads and other transport infrastructure facilities. Occurrences such as severe storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunami, landslides or the aftermath of civil strife or military action can generate a vital demand for transport infrastructure rehabilitation in very compressed timescales and without the benefit of the support and 'enabling' environment normally in place for everyday transport infrastructure management. Developing countries can be severely impacted by natural and man-made disasters and vulnerable groups and the poor suffer disproportionately from the effects of these events.

Image provided by Mustafa Iqbal Azam

Being Prepared

Many governments and organisations across the international community have now come to recognise the importance of being prepared for these events, and over recent years have set out to develop their capacities and capabilities to manage the consequences of crisis events utilising the resources likely to be available . Even developing countries, where routine transport infrastructure operations can pose considerable challenges, there are substantial benefits for planning for such eventualities. This is particularly relevant for areas of known high risk. Although this preparedness process might often be at a relatively early stage of development in many areas, initiatives are being taken across the international scene where professionals are to be found preparing emergency plans for dealing with events at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Such emergency planning activities should also involve training and the testing of the arrangements if possible.

The timely restoration of damaged transport infrastructure deserves effective attention at an operational level within the framework of strategic and tactical directions from senior management. The restoration of essential transport facilities at the operational level can involve the mobilisation of a wide range of local resources and the community, but major disaster events are likely to require wider support including that of the international bodies. Operational assistance, wherever possible, is also desirable at a local level from professionals with experience in the restoration of post-crisis failures in a timely manner.

Practical Arrangements

Transport professionals will often be working in a situation of breakdown of services, communications and support systems and with a traumatised community. Resources may be scarce and ingenuity will be required to quickly restore basic services and facilities as quickly as possible with what is readily available. Useful guiding principles for professionals who may find themselves, either voluntarily or involuntarily in such circumstances should include:

  • Coordinate locally with other functioning professionals and organisations,
  • Determine immediate objectives for transport infrastructure interventions,
  • Recognise security, nutrition, shelter, clean water and health needs of the target community and workers,
  • Recognise local cultural environment, social and gender norms and work practices, and accommodate these,
  • Identify able-bodied labour, skills, equipment and contracting/service/supply organisations available,
  • Identify potential assistants and gang leaders who can be quickly trained and briefed in work methods. Initiate the training/briefing,
  • Develop remuneration framework for works implementation: cash paid, food/provisions, voluntary. Ensure secure, equitable, fair, full and timely payment arrangements,
  • Keep all active agencies advised of plans, constraints and progress,
  • Where possible, plan interventions so that they can ultimately be incorporated in permanent rehabilitation works,
  • Identify labour, intermediate and heavy equipment options to carry out each task. Flexibility will usually be required in prioritising available resources and ingenuity (within safety parameters) to achieve certain tasks in time,
  • Identify best estimate of the scope of proposed works, resources to be used, and predicted time to complete activities to enable minimum access to be restored,
  • Don't forget that whatever you build may be abused and not respected or maintained in a situation of lax control and intense use. Construction and military vehicles can be grossly overloaded compared to normal traffic. Sophisticated designs will probably not be required. Keep everything simple, practical and robust.
  • Keep sufficient records and evidence to support decisions taken which unavoidably could not be pre-sanctioned,
  • Report on what has been achieved, further action required and any issues that compromise future operation or rehabilitation of the infrastructure.

This topic review has been prepared with contributions from David Salter, Mike Broadbent, Mike Shone, Mustafa Iqbal Azam and Peter Kelly.

Technical References


  • Peter Stern and others, Field Engineering: An Introduction to development work and construction. ISBN 9780903031684
  • Eade and Williams, The Oxfam Handbook of Development and Relief, 1995. ISBN-10: 0855982748
  • Jan Davis & Robert Lambert, Engineering in Emergencies - A Practical Guide for Relief Workers, 2nd Edition 2002

Labour Based Road works

Road Surface Options

Low Cost Structures

Landslide & Slope Stabilisation

Social, Organisational & Logistical References

Case Studies.



If you would like to comment on this knowledge or make a further contribution, please contact Rob Petts or go to the Discussion forum.

Updated March 2010