Embodied Carbon In The Rail Industry – Where Does E&P Fit?

Low carbon transport infrastructure will play an essential role in the UK becoming a net zero carbon economy. Tracking progress towards this goal will draw more attention to how we account for embodied carbon in the rail industry.

Within electrification and plant operations it’s tempting to say that because we’re expanding and improving the electrified rail network, we’re doing our bit to decarbonise the UK economy. But we have to be better and more ambitious than that. Sustainability, in all its aspects, has to continue to be at the heart of what we do.

We have to be fully accountable for how our decisions and ways of working determine the embodied carbon emissions created by the work we do. This means being aware of many knock-on effects of our activities.

Measuring Embodied Carbon in the Rail Industry

The way we plan E&P works can have a significant impact on the number of deliveries and vehicle movements. If rail lines are closed for longer than needed and people opt to make journeys by car instead, or if work at crossings means long detours, this has a carbon impact that we must be aware of and mitigate.

Perhaps the biggest positive change to our carbon footprint is to combine E&P upgrades and renewals with civils and other construction work. Integrated working means fewer closures overall and more efficient use of people and equipment.

By bringing different expertise together early in the project it’s also possible to optimise designs and activities so that they consume fewer materials. Solutions can also be implemented that improve climate resilience and simplify future maintenance operations. Smarter decisions today are reducing the carbon debt to be paid in the future.

Increasingly our operations are becoming less carbon intensive. This is partly about using renewable energy wherever possible for onsite facilities. It also involves harnessing digital technologies to support more remote working. Reducing embodied carbon is more than one project or a single initiative – it’s a mindset and a way of working that puts sustainability high on the list of successful project outcomes every time.

For more information, contact Paul Welch (paul.welch@osborne.co.uk).