Estimating flood damage to railway infrastructure – the case study of the March River flood in 2006 at the Austrian Northern Railway
Models for estimating flood losses to infrastructure are rare and their reliability is seldom investigated although infrastructure losses might contribute considerably to the overall flood losses. In this paper, an empirical modelling approach for estimating direct structural flood damage to railway infrastructure and associated financial losses is presented. Via a combination of event data, i.e. photo-documented damage on the Northern Railway in Lower Austria caused by the March River flood in 2006, and simulated flood characteristics, i.e. water levels, flow velocities and combinations thereof, the correlations between physical flood impact parameters and damage occurred to the railway track were investigated and subsequently rendered into a damage model. After calibrating the loss estimation using recorded repair costs of the Austrian Federal Railways, the model was applied to three synthetic scenarios with return periods of 30, 100 and 300 years of March River flooding. Finally, the model results are compared to depth-damage-curve-based approaches for the infrastructure sector obtained from the Rhine Atlas damage model and the Damage Scanner model. The results of this case study indicate a good performance of our two-stage model approach. However, due to a lack of independent event and damage data, the model could not yet be validated. Future research in natural risk should focus on the development of event and damage documentation procedures to overcome this significant hurdle in flood damage modelling.