Live Land - reducing the risk and exposure of transport infrastructure assets to landslide and subsidence

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The objective of Live Land is to reduce the risk and exposure of national transport infrastructure assets to landslide and subsidence events. During the feasibility stage, the Live Land consortium will assess viability of developing a suite of services driven by the needs and requirements of end user organisations. Live Land will draw on a "catalogue" concept, incorporating a suite of enabling technologies (Space-borne and in-situ) that could improve the prediction, monitoring and alerting of landslides and subsidence. Live Land aims to offer a sustainable, user-defined landslide and subsidence prediction, monitoring and alerting service that is both technologically flexible and globally scalable.

The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of an integrated landslide and subsidence forecasting, monitoring and alerting service and whether the implementation of Earth Observation datasets, deployable GNSS modules and satellite communications to relay in-situ observations into a central management system is technically feasible and can provide economic benefits to the end users at a network or national level. 

The study was driven by the needs and requirements of the end user organisations. Such requirements were defined by engagement with end users from the transport infrastructure industry in the UK, Norway and Czech Republic. In addition, a comprehensive review of the state-of-art forecasting, monitoring and alerting technologies critically evaluated those technologies that can be utilised to meet user needs. 

The Live Land system integrated a suite of user driven services which were technically evaluated and validated within the proof of concept stage. 

The study also evaluated the commercial / economic viability of a sustainable and scalable landslide and subsidence service that reduces exposure of users of the transport infrastructure to landslide and subsidence events and allows implementation of hazard reduction strategies through the prioritisation of resources to target high susceptible slopes / embankments / cuttings through engineering measures. 

Upon conclusion of the study, a roadmap for further implementation of the system as a demonstration project was prepared.

Users and their needs

Infrastructure owners, such as national governments, would benefit from geological intelligence that would allow them to prioritise maintenance, risk mitigation strategies and monitoring across the network in response to perceived geological hazards susceptibility. This would also be true for commercially owned roads and rail networks in territories that have a significant susceptibility to landslides and subsidence. Local government, who (often) have the responsibility of maintaining the local road network, will also be a potential end user of such a system in those susceptible areas. 

In instances where the transport infrastructure owners do not manage the networks, transport infrastructure operators, organisations that are paid to maintain and manage transport networks on behalf of asset owners will also require information relating to geological hazards. Such information will potentially allow such private organisations to reduce the instances of disruption and impact of geological hazards on the transport network through the development of a pro-active management strategy. Such management may enable transport infrastructure operators to maintain profitability.  

Transport service operators, such as owners and service providers of rail and road passenger and freight services also require an understanding of landslide and subsidence hazards to facilitate management of their operations allowing them to plan routes that reduces disruption. Such information would be particularly useful in remote, sparse transport networks, where re-routing on the fly in response to a landslide or subsidence event could lead to significant delays and incurred costs. 

In addition, several other potential users have been identified such as insurance companies, who require a detailed understanding of landslide and subsidence hazard susceptibility on their insured assets. Utilities companies who have high-value assets distributed over remote terrain that is susceptible to hazards would also benefit from the Live Land system.

Transport infrastructure is present in many areas that are susceptible to landslides and / or subsidence hazards. Landslides and subsidence can pose a threat to life and routinely impose a heavy burden in terms of both direct and indirect costs, in the form of preventative and restorative maintenance, monitoring requirements and travel disruption. 

Due to topographical constraints rail and road end users (as well as other transport types) share narrow and established transport corridors, therefore end user organisations are exposed to similar landslide hazards. Such hazards will vary geographically with local geology and hydrological conditions. However, there are a number of high level user requirements including: 

  • The need for a scalable network level approach to identify landslide and subsidence hazards.
  • The need to forecast and alert for landslide hazard susceptibility in the medium term to allow the prioritisation of resources (e.g. 3-5 day forecasts)
  • The need to understand hazard susceptibility across the network in real time and monitor accordingly.
  • The need to improve confidence in forecasts of hazards.

The need to improve the spatial resolution of forecasts to identify and manage small scale events.

Service/ system concept

The core concept of the proposed Live Land service is that it uses the appropriate set of technologies to monitor the geological hazards affecting the user's transport infrastructure. The specific individual service products required and their provision is dependent upon the criticality of any geological hazards (spatial and temporal dynamics) to the user's infrastructure and individual user needs.

Live Land Overview

The Figure above describes Live Land's high level service concept in terms of four interacting functions "Monitoring, Analysis, Prediction and Notification" each of which contributes to services monitoring geological risk at different temporal and geographical scales, from wide-scale trend analysis to an immediate assessment of localised landslide potential during severe bad weather.


Space Added Value

Space assets provide significant added value to the Live Land service. Earth observation and GNSS technologies provide the capacity to enable repeat monitoring ensuring landslides and subsidence events can be monitored according to their spatial and temporal dynamics. SatCom technologies permit the relay of data from in-situ monitoring equipment and from the latest generation of smart GNSS transponders, independent of location and access to terrestrial networks. Space assets provide the only feasible means of predicting, monitoring and alerting for such hazards across a large and often remote transport network.

Product Benefits

The suite of Live Land services will aid the forecasting of landslide events, allowing end users to assess and manage landslide and subsidence hazards across their transport networks. Live Land aims to bring a number of key benefits to the end users:

  1. Improved hazard forecasting at the local and network scale will allow end users to prioritise their routine site inspections and emergency planning.
  2. Live Land will provide hazards forecasting capability across the transport network, rather than at certain sites.
  3. Users will be alerted to periods of increased landslide risk and observed slope failures and instances of subsidence in monitored locations.
  4. Real time network level hazard assessment will provide users with timely information vital that could prove critical to the safely of the transport network and protection of transport assets.
  5. Improve confidence in a hazard forecasting service

Therefore, Live Land will provide intelligent forecasting, tailored monitoring, and a suite of alerting technologies & services to provide users with the information to manage landslide and subsidence hazards across their transport networks.


Product Features

Live Land is working closely with end user organisations in the transport domain across Europe. Transport Scotland and Network Rail, who with ESA initiated the IAP through their need for a forecasting, monitoring and alerting service for Scottish landslide and subsidence hazards. Similarly, other transport infrastructure operators, including the Norwegian Public Road Administration and the Czech Republic Road & Motorway Directorate are supporting the Live Land feasibility study.

Live Land aims to develop a suite of user driven technologies and services based on user requirements rather than through a technological "push" approach. The Live Land integrated solution of in-situ and space assets proposes to "add value" to existing forecasting, monitoring and alerting services in a number of key aspects:

  1. Scale (spatial and temporal)
  2. Cost
  3. Service development

A key feature of the Live Land service is the incorporation of real time precipitation datasets and forecasts to develop and improve the modelling and forecasting of landslide risk. Live Land will provide users with a set of decision making tools, facilitating the effective management of geological risk, whereby landslides and areas of subsidence can be monitored according to their spatial and temporal dynamics and risk through the deployment of a tailored suite of monitoring technologies.

Key Issues

The main challenges of the project relate to the landslide forecasting model development due to the complex natural processes that influence slope stability including soil pore water pressure, geology and other factors such as land use and vegetation cover.

In addition, challenges exist in the monitoring of hazards according to forecast risk, and in the alerting of transport asset owners of landslides, embankment collapse and catastrophic subsidence events in real time in order to minimise loss on the transport networks. Space assets provide the potential to increase the forecasting and monitoring capacity to improve landslide and subsidence at a local network level. A key challenge is to develop bespoke monitoring strategies to assess hazards according to their spatial and temporal dynamics.


Current Status

The Live Land feasibility study is now complete, with the production of all the various project deliverables. The POC study successfully demonstrated both the technical feasibility of key Live Land technologies and also positive feedback from the end users on these technologies. Live Land has defined the three tiers of services that will be offered to forecast, monitor and alert for landslide and subsidence hazards affecting transport infrastructure at both the local and network scale. A roadmap has also been created, which defined how these tiers can be developed through the demonstration phase to a fully operationally service that maximises user benefits. 

The next step will be to take this project into the demonstration phase. The consortium is currently engaging with the end users to ensure their commitment to supporting any resulting demonstration project.

Status Date

Updated: 29 November 2013 - Created: 15 February 2014