Solar panels at Eindhoven railway station, source: ProRail

Four principles of ProRail climate-friendly policy

Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail has reduced its CO2 emissions in eight times over the last ten years. In the coming years, it will continue to implement this policy in order to become climate neutral by 2030. What principles does it adhere to reach such an ambitious goal?

ProRail emitted about 10.1 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2019, which is by 18 per cent lower than a year before. Looking at these figures, it’s hard to believe that the Dutch rail infrastructure manager generated around 80 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2010. Such a significant reduction, in eight times, is a good result for ProRail’s climate-friendly policy but it is not a finish.

“2020 is an important year for ProRail’ CO2 reduction plans because we want to achieve the objective of our Multi-year Sustainability Plan: to emit no more than 10 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent with energy consumption,” the Dutch rail infrastructure manager stated. The final target of this policy for ProRail is to become climate neutral in its own energy consumption by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce significantly CO2 emissions, at least 5 kilotonnes per each year, in the material and supply chain. But what about measures to do this?

Sustainable operations

The first step towards climate neutrality is sustainable operations. In 2009 ProRail developed the CO2 Performance Ladder, an instrument that helps organisations reduce their carbon emissions. The Dutch infrastructure manager itself is also certified for the highest, fifth level. As a result, ProRail reduces its energy consumption and improves the material chain. The latter had a CO2 equivalent reduction of 14.7 kilotonnes in 2019. Moreover, ProRail is gradually removing and renovating gas-heated turnouts where it is possible. Last year, there have been removed 176 installations.

Solar energy

While the Dutch national railway operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has been using the wind-generated electricity, ProRail decided to switch to solar energy. It is being actively installed photovoltaic panels on the roofs of station buildings. Eindhoven railway station generates the largest volume of solar-powered energy across the Netherlands. 1,900 photovoltaic panels provide 60 per cent of energy consumed at the mentioned station.

The number of solar panels at the Dutch stations is being gradually increased. For instance, Zwolle station was covered with this equipment last year. “We want to go even further in 2030: ProRail will generate the electricity we need ourselves. Because we have the largest sunroof in the Netherlands. With solar panels on all suitable station roofs and canopies. We also generate energy via the noise barriers along the track,” the railway entity decided.

A platform at Blerick station with the cradle-to-cradle tiles, source: ProRail

Cradle-to-cradle design

Another solution for climate neutrality is the cradle-to-cradle design. To this end, ProRail is trying to use more raw materials and focus on recycling technologies. Among the other things is the usage of sustainable materials for the construction works. A few years ago, there were installed special tiles at the platform of Blerick station. They were produced from roadside waste in accordance with the cradle-to-cradle principle. These tiles cover an area of 4,950 square metres and are able to reduce CO2 emissions by 8 per cent. To absorb this reduced volume in a year, 225 trees are needed.

Safety for animals

ProRail climate-friendly policy is not limited to the mentioned measures. It is worth to remind such unusual but important aspect as safety for animals inhabited close to tracks or bypassing through them. Therefore, ProRail is constructing underground or overground ecoducts. With their help, animals are able to safely cross the tracks. The infrastructure manager has also tested an innovative type of sleepers with dedicated gutters.

ProRail started to install so-called “animal hotels” along the tracks several years ago. They are dedicated to nesting for bees, wasps and bumblebees. Such a “hotel” was even installed near ProRail’s office in Utrecht. The rail infrastructure manager also installs hedges for hedgehogs at a safe distance from the tracks. Moreover, ProRail creates alternative nesting places for storks in order to prevent them from the electric overhead wires.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

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

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