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Competing priorities how actors and institutions influence adaptation of the German railway system

Large-scale infrastructure networks are vulnerable to climate change. Their operation involves public and private actors under complex legislative and market regulations. We analyze climate adaptation of railway infrastructure, based on an in-depth case study of the German railway system. Our analysis crucially extends previous technology-oriented research on the railway sector by applying core insights and categories from the actor-centered institutionalism. We trace observed obstacles for a climate resilient railway system and adaptation decisions back to deeper causes, in particular political priorities and values. Moreover, diverging perceptions and the competition among different actors hamper adaptation. On the other hand, single actors who display a great willingness to act are able to make use of unclear responsibilities to integrate adaptation concerns into existing institutions. Our research suggests that changes in technical standards and in economic regulation support adaptation of infrastructure systems.

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