Information published on 26 May 2009 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 144.

“Rail Infrastructure Environmental Conditions” workshop including EU-project InfraGuidER workshop and kick-off meeting for the UIC-project “Adapting Rail InfraStructure to Climate Changes” (ARISCC)

  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainable development

On May 13th in Paris, UIC organised a working day dedicated to “Rail Infrastructure Environmental Conditions”. Hosted by the EU project InfraGuidER (INFRastructure GUIDelines for Environmental Railway performance) and chaired by Laszlo Tordai from the UIC Technique and Research Department, the workshop included the kick-off meeting of the UIC-project ARISCC (Adapting Rail InfraStructure to Climate Changes). The working day organised in cooperation with the UIC Infrastructure department permitted to explore synergies and potential collaboration between the above two projects which was appreciated by the members and the project partners.

Conveners were thankful for the presentation by Doctor Joanna Post from United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC)*, who expressed strong interest in the UIC work, and illustrated the importance of “adaptation” as well as how the UN is working on this issue globally.

Railways have always been subject to the effects of the weather and were constructed to “survive” natural hazards as infrequent phenomena. Today’s extreme weather will become tomorrow’s normal weather. ARISCC is therefore aiming to develop and implement appropriate adaptation strategies for infrastructure design, components and processes in order to be able to operate in what are abnormal circumstances today and will develop practical tools and measures in order to be prepared for the increasing effects of climate changes, as well as developing credible messages to decision makers on maintenance and investment costs.

The InfraGuidER is a two year project which objective is to define guidelines for developing an effective method and tools to evaluate the environmental impact of existing/future railways and to establish EPI(s) (Environmental Performance Indicators) for the evaluation of the Railway Infrastructure environmental performances. Issues such as noise, vibrations, soil contamination, energy consumption, water and air pollution, electro magnetic fields, landscape impact and materials utilization will be described taking into account both the physical constitution of the system and the operational and management processes acting on and within it.

The conclusion of the meeting was that climate and the weather are basic elements of the environmental conditions. However, InfraGuider and ARISCC are looking at environmental conditions for different aims and after having been through the objectives and main content of both projects, it was obvious to the meeting that the projects are complementary – both very important in its area. It was decided that the two projects should meet again in six months to check out their developments and continue the good cooperation spirit.

*The United Nations’ main body for climate change, United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) is focusing on two levels in its combat against climate changes: mitigation (reducing GHG-emissions) and adaptation. Adaptation includes understanding how to cope with predicted climate changes, and for railways this includes making railway assets more resilient to expected extreme weather effects - to survive in a new environment. For more: http://unfccc.int/adaptation/items/4159.php

ARISCC follow-up:
UIC on behalf of the rail sector early established itself as a fore thinker among transport modes on the challenge of adapting its infrastructure to the consequences of climate changes. UIC is a part of the United Nations Global Adaptation Network and will represent the rail sector with the ARISCC-project in the upcoming UNFCCC meeting, SB 30 (Subsidary Bodies) that takes place between 1st and 12th June.

UIC has also been invited to attend at the World Climate Conference-3 Better climate information for a better future which is organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and various partners and will take place from August 31st to September 4th. .

The first two World Climate Conferences were revolutionary in their impacts. The First World Climate Conference in 1979 ultimately led to the establishment of the World Climate Programme, the World Climate Research Programme and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC - all endeavours that have raised awareness and scientific understanding of climate variability and change. The Second World Climate Conference in 1990 added decisive momentum to global climate discussions, increasing political will and commitment to the issue through the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Global Climate Observing System.