The RSSB (formerly the Rail Safety and Standards Board) is to be lead developer of a coherent and unified framework for sustainability, as a response to passenger, community and Government expectations.
RSSB Sustainability Director George Davies told RAIL’s National Rail Recovery Conference on February 24 that this will result in a strategy likely to be known as sustainable rail. He said that it will be co-created with (and for) the industry and will set common overall objectives for rail.
Davies said that on the UK rail network there is a fragmented approach to sustainability, with independent action under way in pockets and often with single stakeholders committed to doing the right thing, but with inward-looking approaches.
The organisation has taken on the role on behalf of the Department for Transport, and Davies explained: “Once that defined ambition is clear, we will be able to show how asset owners, train operators and suppliers all need to take on responsibility.”
He added that the industry is understandably focused on carbon, but other topics such as air quality, biodiversity and social impact aren’t being given the attention they need.
“What is a sustainable railway?” Davies asked delegates.
“The answer is quite simple. It’s a railway that is fit for the future - one that helps solve the sustainability challenges we face rather than contribute to them.
“We need to change the way we think, act and measure sustainability success. In many cases we need to measure the sustainability impact we have and get a handle on the scale of the issues.
“We need buy-in from across the industry and crucially we need a lot of help from the supply chain. The role of government in this is fundamental, too. Setting the policy structure that provides long-term clarity and incentivises the right outcomes is a really crucial lever.
“As we look at the replacements for franchises, we need to ensure that contracts awarded are shaping the right responses with realistic performance conditions that are consistently applied.”
Davies spoke of being encouraged that despite the pandemic, the railway still views sustainability as a top-level strategic issue, adding that the industry was “in a really good position to move forward. We need to be more proactive and not simply react to challenges set down by ministers.”
- Full coverage of the National Rail Recovery Conference will appear in RAIL 926, on sale digitally March 6 and in print on March 10. You can still register to watch any of the NRRC sessions on-demand within the next three months, by going to www.nationalrailconference.com