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ACHILLES: Assessment, costing and enhancement of long life, long linear assets

This EPSRC-funded Programme Grant will examine how infrastructure assets can be better maintained and monitored for future resilience.

Project status

In progress


1 Jul 2018 to 31 Dec 2022

Workers wearing high-vis jackets inspect railway lines.
As part of a multi-institutional partnership, Dr Kevin Briggs is conducting experiments and simulations to determine how infrastructure materials behave and assets deteriorate.

The Assessment, Costing and enHancement of long lIfe, Long Linear assEtS (ACHILLES) programme has received £4.8 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It is being led by Newcastle University and involves the expertise from the universities of Newcastle, Southampton, Durham, Loughborough, Leeds and Bath, as well as the British Geological Survey, major infrastructure owners and their consultants.

Linear infrastructure assets

ACHILLES will examine how ‘long linear infrastructure assets’, such as road and railway slopes, pipeline bedding and flood protection structures, can be better maintained and monitored to make them more resilient for the future.

Failure of these networks is common-place. For example, in 2015 there were 143 earthworks failures on Network Rail, more than two per week. This results in high costs - emergency repairs cost 10 times that of planned works, which in turn cost 10 times that of maintenance work.

Vulnerability to these types of failure is also significant. There are 748,000 properties in the UK with at least a 1-in-100 annual chance of flooding while derailment from slope failure is the greatest infrastructure-related risk faced by our railways. Despite this, the exact reasons for, and timing of, failure are poorly understood.

The programme

The functioning of infrastructure systems is dependent upon the ground beneath or around its assets (e.g. pylon, pipe or rail track).

Tools to assess, monitor, design and repair the performance of the ground are fundamental. ACHILLES will deliver these tools through three Research Challenges:

  1. Deterioration processes
  2. Asset performance
  3. Forecasting and decision support

The team

This project is funded by the EPSRC and forms a unique opportunity uniting six academic institutions and their field, laboratory and computing facilities; with a large cohort of PhD students and experienced stakeholder community.

Transformative contributions

ACHILLES will transform our understanding of deterioration in long linear infrastructure assets through the following activities:

  1. Understand the deterioration of engineered soils
  2. Link deterioration to performance over a range of spatial scales
  3. Systematically upscale deterioration process modelling from material to asset to network
  4. Enable sensor technologies to characterise and monitor deterioration
  5. Understand the scientific worth of data
  6. Understand the status of uncertainty and heterogeneity across all scales
  7. Integrate research outputs within a decision-making framework


The ACHILLES Programme has a range of industrial stakeholders representing asset owners and their consultants including:

  • Arup Group Ltd
  • CH2M
  • Environment Agency
  • Geotechnics Ltd
  • High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd
  • Highways England
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Network Rail
  • Severn Trent Water Ltd
  • Welsh Government

Project lead for the University of Bath

Dr Kevin Briggs's work will look to challenge current understandings of the way in which our infrastructure deteriorates, by conducting realistic experiments and simulations to determine how materials behave and assets deteriorate at full scale.