Wednesday 29 March 2023

Mainstreaming EU BISON project outputs among railway stakeholders

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On February 27, the “BISON Wilding Railways" event, organised by the Biodiversity and Infrastructure Synergies and Opportunities For European Transport Networks (BISON) project in collaboration with UIC Sustainable Land Use (SLU) Sector, took place as part of the beginning of the UIC Sustainability Action Week. UIC is a key member of the EU-funded BISON project to represent railways and to showcase the best practices of its European members in biodiversity management.

The aim of the event was to scale up the EU project’s outcomes for railways by providing an interactive platform for stakeholders from the transport and ecology industries to exchange ideas on the opportunities to integrate and enhance biodiversity in the railway sector and the challenges that come with this. After a hiatus in the project, the international event was a new chance to network and support the activities of the UIC Sustainable Land Use sector’s members, whose results are widely referenced in the BISON project. A total of 70 participants took part in a hybrid format, with 50 of them joining the event in-person.

The in-person participants had the opportunity to join different think tank discussions moderated by BISON project leaders, which focused on the possible solutions, obstacles and challenges related to biodiversity and transport as a whole. Following these interactive sessions, the outcomes of the discussions and targeted high-level presentations were displayed on stage. In addition, the results and main messages of each activity were made into posters through the support of visual designers, opening up further avenues for visualisation and communication.

Key messages:

  • Break-down silos at a nexus of challenges by mobilizing research to dare to take risks and support innovative approach beyond conventional borders: As time is running and fundings resources are rare, policies need to reinforce their coordination and adopt quickly a mix of new and progressive perspectives to create a symbiotic relationship between infrastructure and biodiversity in the transport sector. This is especially in light of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, where railway infrastructure investments are required to double or triple rail traffic in the coming decades. Railways are also to play a crucial role in enriching the EU’s biodiversity goals by providing habitats to rare species.
    • Yannick Autret, MTECT: link
    • Ethem Pekin, CER: link
  • Enhance connectivity and provide opportunities: The Land cover, sealed surfaces, and nature-based solutions session discussed the threats of climate change and how to halt biodiversity loss. This includes the challenges of implementing nature-based solutions in the transport sector, the rewilding processes and the management of invasive species to be performed in synergy with daily railway operations. As a basis, this requires knowledge on the actual land use and land cover of railway lands. Presentations were given on how the application of nature-based solutions may help to increase infrastructure resilience as well as to benefit biodiversity, and the possibilities of railway operators to contribute to ecosystems and ecological connectivity preservation and restoration.
    • Carme Rosell, Minuartia: link
    • Thomas Schauppenlehner, BOKU Vienna: link
  • Maintain constant productive communication: Having a connection with the landscape and communities should continue to be key for the railways, as they can deliver vital biodiversity enhancement. The presentations showed how the railway, alongside other landowners, can engender a landscape change, with biodiversity strategies including the UIC rEvERsE project’s vision to deliver “A well-managed green infrastructure which will bring biodiversity benefits and helps to support safer and more reliable railway operations.
    • John Varley, Clinton Devon Estates: link
    • Thomas Schuh, ÖBB: link
  • Enhance effective monitoring and reporting: Think tank discussions drew the attention to what biodiversity value is, and how to monitor and measure it thanks to digital models such as Building Information Modeling and Digital Twins to help managing the cooperation between practitioners from different sectors working on the same infrastructure. The expected future role of digital tools on the key issues within the scope of the BISON project were highlighted, explaining what the existing monitoring mitigation hierarchies are and how to implement them with support of digital models. Case studies regarding biodiversity monitoring, management and reporting in the rail sector were presented, addressing both operators and infrastructure. Metrics should be developed to achieve a biodiversity net gain and not only enhance biodiversity but also combat the climate crisis, via an innovative approach to the development and adaptation of nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration and land stabilisation on railway terrain.
    • Sylvain MOULHERAT, UPGE, TerrOïko : link
    • Hervé Le Caignec, LISEA : link
    • Julia Baker, Mott MacDonald: link
  • Be a frontrunner in exploring and promoting alternatives: The UIC TRISTRAM project drew attention to important goals for railways regarding vegetation management: Avoid the use of chemicals, develop alternative non chemical methods, optimise the use of herbicides, and adopt new digital tools and advanced technologies. Furthermore, SNCF in France demonstrated how they have phased out glyphosate use in vegetation management and its consequent further advancement. The development of new product mixtures for use on railways, detection tools, and improved adjacent landscape management and the upgrading of conventional spray trains were given particular emphasis.
    • Michael Below, DB: link
    • Baptiste Bonzon, SNCF: link
  • Develop tools for ecosystems services: As part of the BISON project, an e-learning platform to gain knowledge on ecosystem services is being developed to raise awareness about the needs, benefits and limits of harmonising transport infrastructure and biodiversity protection. Moreover, detailed information on the UIC Ecosystem Valuation for Railways (ECOV4R) project was presented, which is a global platform on how to apply ecosystem services thinking and science to land management techniques, and to better understand the habitats and associated services on railway land.
    • Sila Husar, STUBA: link
    • Neil Strong, NR: link

BISON can be followed on LinkedIn, twitter and on its project website
The documents of the event can be found on the website: link.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101006661.

For more information, please contact Pınar Yılmazer (BISON UIC Project Coordinator) at

or Lorenzo Franzoni (UIC Sustainability Advisor, BISON Project) at

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