Information published on 25 May 2021 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

Network Rail becomes the 35th railway leader to sign the UIC Climate Declaration, with European railways already exceeding their 2030 carbon targets

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UIC is pleased to have its 35th member sign the Climate Declaration, with Network Rail joining a growing group of railway leaders committed to targets in line with the Paris Agreement and taking decisive taking action to achieve decarbonisation before 2050.

This declaration reiterates the ambition set out by Network Rail last year when it became the first railway in the world to commit to the most challenging science-based targets for carbon reduction. This ambition is part of Network Rail’s newly launched Environmental Sustainability Strategy, setting out a blueprint for a path to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 in line with UK government targets. The strategy defines the company’s main priorities: run a low-emission railway, provide a reliable service to passengers that is resilient to climate change, improve biodiversity across the network, and ensure sustainable use of materials with minimal waste.

Martin Frobisher OBE, director of safety, technical and engineering at Network Rail, said:

We’re delighted to be joining a number of like-minded organisations from around the world in committing to the UIC Climate declaration. It’s a great opportunity to work alongside international partners, share best practice and work collaboratively towards the common goal of decarbonising rail.

“We’re making terrific progress and of course, rail has good credentials as an emissions-friendly form of mass transport, but there is still a lot more we have to do in the coming years to leave a positive environmental legacy for future generations and enable rail to playing a leading role in driving green economic growth.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said:

Cleaner, greener railways will be an integral part of delivering net-zero transport network by 2050.

I am proud to see Network Rail working internationally to share expertise and innovation, and ensure that the UK continues to be a world leader with our work towards carbon reduction.

François Davenne, director general of International Union of Railways (UIC) said:

With 2021 marking UIC’s centenary, the commitment of our members to the UIC pledge becomes increasingly important and structured. Network Rail is one of the most innovative infrastructure managers and will give its full commitment to this process.

I am struck by the fact that among our members there is an increasingly strong sense of urgency. As we know, we have 10 years to demonstrate that rail is the solution to implement a paradigm shift for a low-carbon transport sector.”

In the Race to Zero, it is important to also understand mid-term targets. Since 2008, UIC has been working in partnership with CER and EIM to achieve a commitment on CO2 from train traction-related activities for the European railways, with a target of specific emission reduction. By 2030, the European railways will aim to:

  • reduce their specific final energy consumption from train operation by 30% compared to the base year (1990) measured per passenger-km (passenger service) and gross tonne-km (freight service)
  • reduce their specific average CO2 emissions from train operation by 50% compared to the base year (2005) measured per passenger-km (passenger service) and gross tonne-km (freight service)
  • reduce their total CO2 emissions from train operation by 30% in absolute terms compared to the base year (2005)
  • reduce their total exhaust emissions of NOx and PM10 by 40% in absolute terms, even with projected traffic growth compared to the 2005 base year

UIC collects and carefully checks data in its Energy and Environmental Database each year. This data is collected in a harmonised manner from 70 companies based in 34 countries across Europe, including Russia and Turkey. The data shows continuous improvement in performance across the region. Reduced energy and total carbon emissions were once again observed in 2019. The 2030 goal of reducing total CO2 emissions from train operation by 30% in absolute terms compared to 2005 has been already exceeded, with the reduction now standing at 40%.

The railways will play a critical role in mitigating climate change as the backbone of a decarbonised and sustainable mobility system and in a green recovery from the pandemic. Rail is the most sustainable form of mass transport, but we cannot be complacent; we must continue to strive to innovate and collaborate across the transport sector.

The UK holds the COP26 presidency, with the conference taking place in Glasgow in November this year. This event serves as an opportunity for the global rail community to highlight rail’s important contribution to decarbonisation and the creation of sustainable lifestyles and economies.

For further information please contact Lucie Anderton at anderton@uic.org