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Durham University

Research & business

Keeping Africa moving in a changing climate

(21 August 2019)

Durham’s engineers are working with partners in Africa to find ways to use cheaper and more sustainable local materials to build all-weather, low-traffic roads and railway lines.

This is important because poor transport is one of the main barriers to investment and growth in Africa.

Trade & mobility

Good roads provide a lifeline for people in rural areas for trade, mobility and access to education and health services. This helps to reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of people living in these areas.

Our researchers are looking at how locally available soil materials can be used successfully in road and rail construction.

However, these local materials are more sensitive to water movement than those traditionally used to build roads or railbeds that lie underneath railway tracks.

This means our research has to identify how these materials react when they get wet or dry out and which are suitable for use in a changing climate.

To do this, sensors have been installed to see how much rainwater penetrates roads and railway embankments in Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa, and how the material might change as a result.

Climate change

Using data from the sensors, the team will create a computer model to test the impact of future changes in climate on materials used to build transport links.

This is vital as roads and railways built now will still be in use in 50 to 100 years’ time when the climate might be very different.

Find out more

The research is part of the Transport Africa project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

It is led by Professor David Toll in Durham’s Department of Engineering.

We are working in partnership with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Nyaoro & Associates in Tanzania.

Undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities in Engineering at Durham.