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What does biodiversity have to do with the railways?

While most people working in rail do not consider wildlife to be a traditional area of expertise, that perception is changing. There is an increasing understanding of the rapid loss of global biodiversity and increasing understanding of responsibility, obligation and opportunity for railways to help halt the loss. Colleagues Pınar Yılmazer and Lucie Anderton from the UIC’s Sustainability Unit, explain more.

What does biodiversity have to do with the railways?

Although travelling by rail is often associated with stress-free journeys across beautiful sceneries, the railway sector’s awareness of the environment and its neighbours is constantly evolving, and its activities are expanding. The question of how to achieve sustainable integration of transport infrastructure within habitats is progressively being addressed by the objectives set by the European Green Deal. The railway is home to a great variety of flora and fauna, providing a green corridor, connecting natural habitats as well as connecting people and goods. This linear green space contributes to the survival of several threatened and protected species, they can live, move, feed, and thrive, relatively undisturbed by humans.

Railways are an efficient transport system in terms of land consumption, with only 7m² needed per passenger, compared to 100m² per car passenger. Railway properties criss-cross nature reserves and important habitats, and with this comes a potential for severance of animal migration routes, animal collisions with trains and over-headlines and fragmentation. Railway companies across Europe want to know how they can manage the railway to prevent collisions, and improve operational safety while improving the biodiversity of the land they occupy. Innovative and permeable solutions in the design of infrastructure and management plans are needed.

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