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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K027050/1
Principal Investigator: Glendinning, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Chambers, Professor JE Toll, Professor DG Dixon, Professor N
Augarde, Professor C Clarke, Dr D Rouainia, Dr M
Hughes, Dr PN Dijkstra, Dr TA Powrie, Professor W
Hughes, Dr D Smethurst, Dr JA Gunn, Dr DA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Atkins CIRIA Department for Regional Development NI
Geotechnics Limited Golder Associates (International) Highways Agency
Mott Macdonald Network Rail Rail Safety & Standards Board
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 July 2013 Ends: 30 June 2017 Value (£): 1,671,674
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Ground Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Oct 2012 GSE Full Proposal Sift Announced
29 Nov 2012 GSE Interview Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The UK's transport infrastructure is one of the most heavily used in the world. The rail network takes 50% more daily traffic than the French network; the M25 between junctions 15 and 14 carries 165000 vehicles daily; London Underground is Europe's largest subway. The performance of these networks is critically dependent on the performance of cutting and embankment slopes which make up £20B of the £60B asset value of major highway infrastructure alone. Many of these slopes are old and suffering high incidents of instability (increasing with time). Our vision is to create a visualised model of transient water movement in infrastructure slopes under a range of current and future environmental scenarios, based on a fundamental understanding of earthwork material and system behaviour, which can be used to create a more reliable, cost effective, safer and more sustainable transport system. The impact of the improved slope management will be highly significant in both direct economic and indirect social and economic terms: planned maintenance costs 10 times less and reduces delays caused by slope failure. This proposal offers a unique opportunity to unite 6 academic institutions and coalesce their field, laboratory and computing facilities; with a large cohort of PhD students and experienced stakeholder community we will undertake world leading science and create a long-term legacy.

Individually, the partners in this proposal, in collaboration with key infrastructure owners and engineering companies, have been responsible for the instrumentation of 15 cut slopes and embankments, the development of numerical models which couple hydrological and geotechnical effects, and the development of laboratory and filed testing to provide parameters to populate these models. These studies have helped to define the type of problem that is being faced and begin to understand some of the interactions between weather, soil and vegetation. However, further research is required in order to better understand material behaviour (particularly the composite behaviour of soil, water, air and vegetation); slope system behaviour (particularly the effects of temporal and spatial variations of material properties) and the relationships with environmental effects and engineering performance. Furthermore, the integration of the material and slope behaviour with that of the behaviour of the infrastructure network as a whole has thus far not been possible.

It is important for the sustainable management of infrastructure slopes (assessment, planning, repair, maintenance and adaptation) to have models that can assess the likely engineering performance of infrastructure slopes, both now and in the future. Recent model development has started to consider the input of weather patterns, and can therefore model the potential effects of future climate. However it has become clear that these models are sensitive to the way in which a number of the physical processes and properties are incorporated, many of which are complex and difficult to quantify directly. A better understanding of the interactions between earthworks, vegetation and climate is required to formulate robust guidance on which maintenance approaches should be adopted and how they should be applied.

iSMART will use a combination of field measurements, lab testing and development of conceptual and numerical models to investigate the uncertainties and knowledge gaps enumerated above and to visualise the complex interactions taking place over time and space. This knowledge will help the managers of the UK's transport infrastructure to identify problem sites, plan and prioritise maintenance activity, and develop assessment and adaptation strategies to ensure future safety and resilience of geotechnical transport infrastructure.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk