RSSB releases a sustainable blueprint for the rail sector

With data from Boston Consulting Group, we’re looking at the RSSB’s announcement of a Sustainable Rail Blueprint and comments from Director George Davies

Setting flexibility aside, rail transportation is one of the most sustainable forms, leading the way in mass transit whatever the region. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) cites it’s responsible for 9% of motorised passenger mobility globally and is also used for 7% of freight shipments worldwide. 

With that said, only 3% of the energy used for transport goes to the rail sector, making it a highly efficient means of movement for people and goods. Rail has been severely underutilised, excluding some densely populated areas, yet provides the kind of transport required to connect cities and towns along major routes. 

With this in mind, organisations must look into new ways to leverage rail while also providing commuters and travellers with the flexibility they need in modern-day life—this is where the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s (RSSB) Sustainable Rail Blueprint comes into play. 

Credit: RSSB | Figure showing the key areas of focus for the Sustainable Rail Blueprint

Working with the industry led to the specification of a sustainable rail roadmap, led by the board, and the organisation’s Director of Sustainable Development George Davies says:

“RSSB has led development of the Sustainable Rail Blueprint, co-creating it with the rail industry, for the rail industry. It’s a practical resource to shape thinking and guide action across environmental and social issues, whilst recognising the pressures our industry is under currently” 

The ‘What’, ‘How’, and ‘Who’ of sustainable rail

In order to fully analyse and build a sustainable rail network worthy of operation in the future, the RSSB considers the ‘What’, ‘How’, and ‘Who’ in its blueprint. This includes: 

  • ‘What’ - 11 sustainable rail topics that covers emissions, and environmental and social sustainability 
  • ‘How’ - 6 solutions that are the primary enablers of sustainable rail 
  • ‘Who’ - The key roles required to enable the sustainable strategy

“The Sustainable Rail Blueprint sets out what needs addressing, how it can be worked on and who needs to get involved.  Reflecting legislation and policy along with what society expects, the Blueprint brings consistency to realise [an] even more sustainable railway,” says Davies.

Also commenting on the Blueprint is Elaine Seagriff, Programme Director of Strategy at the Great British Railways Transition Team, who says: “The rail industry has the opportunity to drive forward sustainability for Britain, not just by reducing the impact on the environment of moving people and goods but also in encouraging investment in and the development of new technologies. As such, we welcome the publication of the Sustainable Rail Blueprint, which is a key input to the long-term Strategy for Rail.” 

Data shows Russia and China win at mobility by train

Data suggest that Russia transports most of its freight via rail and China is the best when it comes to passenger transport. Generally, across The Americas rail is more widely used for freight and there is significant scope for growing its use of passenger rail transport. In the US and Canada (we’ll also include Brazil), only 1% of rail is used for passenger transport despite the footprint of the countries. The majority of rail in these areas is kept for the supply chain, which accounts for 35 - 46% in The Americas (not including Brazil). 

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