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Deutsche Bahn tracks, source: Deutsche Bahn

Deutsche Bahn wants to maintain tracks without toxic herbicide

German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn intends to renounce the use of glyphosate in track maintenance. The popular and moderately toxic herbicide is applied to kill the weeds along the tracks. The company will look for new, environmentally friendly solutions for this purpose.

“Together with the Federal Ministry for Environment and Nature Conservation we want to start a research project to find effective ways for operation of 33,000 kilometres of track network without glyphosate and to make it environmentally friendly,” said Ronald Pofalla, Member of the Deutsche Bahn’s Management Board responsible for Infrastructure, in an interview to the weekly business magazine WirtschaftsWoche. Hot water, electric shocks or ultraviolet lights could be an alternative to the herbicide.

Toxic herbicide

Glyphosate is considered a moderately toxic herbicide. However, the World Health Organization classifies it as ‘probably carcinogenic’. Deutsche Bahn uses around 65 tonnes of glyphosate per year for track maintenance. Spaying is being carried out once a year, usually during the summertime. Typically, these works are provided in the night when there is no strong wind.

Latterly, the inhabitants of the North Rhine-Westphalia state living close to the tracks were being concerned over the use of glyphosate and its consequences for their health. The licence of glyphosate in the European Union is active across the association until 2022. Last year, the German government has imposed new restrictions for using this herbicide in the agriculture industry.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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