The UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has launched its Sustainable Rail Blueprint to support the country’s rail industry in its work to become more environmentally friendly and reach net zero targets.

The blueprint framework comes three years after the country’s Department for Transport (DfT) identified the need for a cross-industry strategy on the challenges faced in the work to make progress on environmental and social sustainability challenges. 

UK Rail Minister Huw Merriman said that the government-commissioned blueprint would provide clear guidance on what a sustainable railway should look like. 

Merriman said: “While significant progress has already been made in recent years, this report will further support the industry in reducing its environmental impact, using innovative techniques to make our rail network even greener and ensuring the environment is at the heart of our decision making.” 

In addition to providing an overview of policy milestones and initiatives that could support the industry in its work, the blueprint also lists 11 sustainable rail topics and six common solutions identified as “primary enables of sustainable rail”. 

Those common solutions include ensuring zero emission traction through the electrification of networks and alternative rolling stock, creating a data framework to measure and collate progress against goals and integrating railways into a joined-up transport network. 

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The blueprint also recommended working on nature-based solutions, embedding social values and adopting a culture for sustainability as a core pillar of the rail industry. 

George Davies, the RSSB’s director of sustainable development, said: “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.” 

Alongside the RSSB’s work to support sustainability in the rail industry, the board has also worked on campaigns to improve safety on railways throughout the UK and recently released an updated risk assessment tool.