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Ecology

The rail transport is the most environment-friendly and sustainable transport mode

The rail transport is the most environment-friendly and sustainable transport mode in the long run when compared to other modes of transport. Accordingly, HŽ Putnički prijevoz  development policy is directed towards business and social targets, which primarily rely on the principles of sustainable development and environmental protection.


As seen from the perspective of the society we live in, it can be argued that rail offers solutions to cope with the mobility and transport challenges in the future. Rail has lower impact on climate and environment than most other transport modes. Besides, today´s consumer has much higher expectations. In this respect, the railway is at an advantage as well since it brings people to work and back, along with the increasing level of quality and production time, reliable mobility and transportation and reduces the negative impact on the environment. Travelling by train gives passengers the chance to spend quality time - to work, rest, sleep, read a book, or simply spend time with their family and friends. Apart from being the safest mode of transport, rail relieves roads, reduces congestions and focuses on the importance of utilizing integrated rail system and other modes of transport. 

 

Railway and atmosphere
According to the International Union of Railways (UIC), railway is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to move people and goods. It has a tremendous potential to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment and improve the quality of living for the citizens, which is substantiated by the fact that the rail sector agreed on a voluntary target for 2020 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, which is shown in Figure 1. 

No other major transport mode can boast energy efficiency similar to that of rail transport. Moreover, rail is the only mode that has decreased its share of CO2 emissions since 1990, whereas all other motorised transport modes have increased their share. Besides, about 80% of the European rail fleet runs on electric power, meaning most trains can switch to clean electricity when it becomes available.

According to data from 2005, as shown in Figure 2, road traffic accounts for 72% of CO2 emissions in the EU. In contrast, rail accounts for just 1.6% of CO2 emissions, while it transports 6% of all passengers and 10.3% of all freight. This is a clear indicator that railways can do more for less. A modal shift from road and air towards rail is one obvious way to reduce CO2 emissions. Railways and public transport are the backbone of any sustainable transport system. Hence, there is no good reason for not taking advantage of the potential benefits of rail transport now, including vastly lower energy consumption and environmental impact, plus enhanced economic performance and competitiveness. 

In order to keep pace with the changes in the EU, environmental protection on the part of railways includes the following activities:

• drafting of a regulatory framework and its compliance with laws and regulations   
• follow-up as to implementation of regulations on the railway
• drafting of technical and technological projects for refurbishment of the existing facilities and building new facilities within which the level of environmental protection will be increased
• improvement of practices regarding the management of waste produced in technological processes
• drafting of surveys and elaborations on environmental protection
• quality system implementation for the environmental protection sector (ISO Standards).

The targets of environmental protection are equally evaluated with other development targets and the contribution to environmental protection is an important integral part of comparative advantages. The targets of environmental protection are as follows:

• to improve the quality of transport service in order to reduce the existing or potential negative impact on the environment to the least possible extent (waste water treatment, safe disposal of hazardous materials, as well as noise control)   
• to apply precautionary approaches (environmental analysis for each new project)
• to reduce potable water consumption, achieved by more rational exploitation of water resources, as well as water network repair works and refurbishment 
• to reduce energy consumption of any kind, particularly operating energy for locomotives, as well as consumption of fossil fuel through electrification of railway lines
• to promote the utilization of the railway for the purpose of increasing the volume of passenger and freight transports by highlighting its comparative advantages and principles of sustainable transport  
• to train employees, to assume responsibility for the environment, and to monitor business activities on a regular basis.

Railway and noise
Noise is a key concern for people living near transport infrastructure, and can be damaging to both health and general well-being. Figure 3 shows that rail transport generates the least noise, whereas the most noise is generated by air traffic. Although train noise is much less intrusive than noise from air and road traffic, the railway sector wants to reduce noise even further, especially that caused by freight trains.

Railway and safety
Safety is a key aspect of rail transport, since rail is considered the safest mode of transport, which is also one of the most important subjects for any transport mode where the key objective is the transportation of people and products. Likewise, railways offer assistance to passengers with reduced mobility such as disabled persons who find railway very useful mode of transport because there is rolling stock equipped with features to make travelling easier for people particular mobility needs.

Railway and combined transport

Combined transport can reduce CO2 emissions in a way that huge load from road traffic is shifted to freight trains running at longer distances and that lorry transport is solely used for a closer freight delivery. Using combined transport that links road and rail, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by even more than 50%. Besides, it is predicted that the combined transport will double by 2015. Combined transport has already produced remarkable growth rates, and open access for railways within the EU - in effect since 2007. Total combined road-rail traffic in Europe is expected to increase to 268 million gross tonnes by 2015, a 114% increase over 2005.
While most consumers still base their travel decisions largely on price, value for money, service and availability, more and more people are taking environmental factors into account. The railway community is therefore working hard to provide customers with comprehensive information on climate change, air pollution and the „external costs“ of transport.

 Source:
1. International Union of Railways (UIC), Railways and Sustainable Development, 2012
2. International Union of Railways (UIC), Building on the Railways´ Environmental Strengths, 2009