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CER statement on the EU Action Plan "On zero water, air and soil pollution"

CER statement on the EU Action Plan &quote;On zero water, air and soil pollution&quote;
photo: Archives/Railway
18 / 05 / 2021

CER supports the EU's zero pollution ambitions, which should be based on air, water and noise measures, while pollution at national level should be addressed according to the polluter pays principle. The Action Plan should make progress towards enabling cleaner transport in the EU from external costs. All these points relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and must find a place in the new European Environment Action Programme. Strategies at EU level are crucial for assisting Member States and whose level the issue should be addressed taking into account their specifications and requirements. The European Commission, together with institutions such as the European Environment Agency, should irreplaceably monitor pollution levels (based on data collection and processing) and develop methodologies for determining the amount of pollutants that would constitute limits imposed at national level. Finally, the EU-level strategy should provide a talking point for Member States to share their experiences and approach in order to recommend the most effective solution to minimise pollution. The rail sector is taking many measures to become a means of transport with zero pollution.

Energy efficiency

Railway companies are introducing various measures, from eco-driving to driver advisory systems for the operation of trains in the most efficient operation. International The Union of Railways (UIC) SFERA is a good example of UIC members proposing innovative standard for efficient train management and driving advice as a step forward for future automatic operations. Railway companies pay particular attention to optimising loading and passenger traffic as a factor in further reducing their emissions per passenger and tonne-kilometres during COVID-19 pandemic.

Use of renewable energies

The high dependence of rail traffic on electricity makes it possible to reduce emissions of tonnes

Pollutants. This resource has the best impact in the transport sector in both passenger and freight in the field of climate protection. However, the sector is aware of pollution that comes from electricity

produced in fossil fuel power plants. Although this pollution is less than combustion the rail sector supports electricity from renewable energy sources. That's why many infrastructure managers and rail operators also try to buy "green" electricity and negotiate the purchase of electricity in agreements to place solar panel fields on their land.

Efforts to reduce air pollution and reduce noise

The different levels of technology maturity mean that the sector faces a major challenge in rebuilding its rolling stock, a long-term investment due to its long service life. The rail sector has already shared its views at the Conference on Alternative Fuels and Power Units and actively participated in the debate on green hydrogen in Europe. Railways require further studies at EU level or studies of their own best short- and medium-term alternatives.

CER-UIC members are working to phase out the use of diesel propulsion, which is actively eliminate direct emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides from locomotives, including working trains. Noise reduction remains a top priority for the whole industry. The different levels of technology maturity mean that the sector faces a major challenge in rebuilding its rolling stock, a long-term investment due to its long service life. The rail sector has already shared its views at the Conference on Alternative Fuels and Power Units and actively participated in the debate on green hydrogen in Europe. Railways require further studies at EU level or studies of their own best short- and medium-term alternatives.

Prevention of the use of chemicals, minimisation of environmental and safety at work and human health (i.e. conventional chemical herbicides, creosote, etc.)

Under the leadership of the UIC, railway companies are working together to develop a strategy to address sustainable maintenance of vegetation around the lines, promote biodiversity and preserve soil quality. Infrastructure managers should continue to work with universities, institutions and industry to extensively test environmentally friendly and alternative chemical replacement solutions without limiting the competitiveness of the entire rail system. More research is needed to assess the impact creosote wooden sleepers on ballasts, soils, groundwater and surface water, air and soil

Waste management

Projects aimed at reducing waste and promoting the circular economy are still under way in the EU in order to increase recycling, which also affects the rail sector. Bins for sorted waste are already normally located in passenger compartments and measures are being taken to reduce the volume of plastic waste. Employees are trained in environmental practices. The method of disposal of hazardous wastes and materials of similar characteristics should be elaborated in more detail and every effort should be made for harmonisation within the EU. Digital tools should manage a system for the management of hazardous or potentially hazardous waste that should not be reused and must be properly disposed of at the end of its useful life.

The rail sector should be aware that there is a risk of a rapid transition to inconclusive and untested alternatives to solutions. The ecological footprint of alternative solutions should be carefully assessed with regard to production and installation processes before their implementation in rail operations. Here, a socio-economic and environmental analysis is needed, holistic strategic plans to improve the EU's overall impact on the railway environment need to be drawn up without compromising the commercial competitiveness of the sector.

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