Rail Infrastructure and the Sustainability Challenge

Rail is rightly recognised by many as an efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport – particularly compared to road and air.
In spite of this, Network Rail, and the supply chain that maintains the rail network, face significant sustainability challenges. Not least of these is increasing and guaranteeing capacity, reliability and access so that more people choose to travel by rail rather than a less environmentally friendly alternative.

Macro sustainability issues such as waste elimination, energy use, carbon reduction and environmental protection are also in sharp focus, as rail seeks to enhance its sustainability credentials.

Implications for the maintenance supply chain are far reaching. Policies and practices for everything from leadership through to quality, HR, environmental protection and data management are affected. We must also at least match the focus of train operators when it comes to putting the needs of passengers centre stage.

Every maintenance operation requires the movement of people, equipment and materials. There is also a potential knock-on as rail travellers have to use more polluting ways to make their journey while work is completed. These ‘sustainability costs’ need to be managed and balanced with the benefits of the work.

Through innovation and improved quality, we should be able to reduce the maintenance needed over the lifetime of the asset and build a more resilient network. Less maintenance would result in better sustainability with a reduction of lifetime resources needed and therefore less waste. Better planning and collaboration can reduce the length of possessions and return to full capacity sooner, meaning travellers do not have to use alternative potentially more polluting methods for long periods of time.

A Rail Network for All

Much of our rail network remains inaccessible to people with disabilities. It can also be rather like an unappealing assault course for people travelling with small children or bulky luggage. Investment is finite, so clever and efficient solutions are needed to increase step free access while minimising costs and disruption for existing passengers.

And, of course, we must be highly conscious of the communities and habitats that surround rail assets. We must ensure that solutions seek to go beyond minimising harm and aim instead to leave a positive lasting legacy.

This may seem like a daunting list of objectives, but they are all attainable. The benefits on offer make it well worth the effort and Osborne is fully committed to playing our part.

Find out more by visiting Highways learning pages on our website.

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