Measuring rail’s circular economy performance

Featured story
Together with Ricardo PLC, we are producing a suite of metrics to assess the rail industry’s performance against the Zero Waste Flagship Goal contained in the Sustainable Rail Blueprint.

Working alongside industry, we have been leading the effort to put figures on exactly how sustainable GB rail is. We are also leading the effort to ensure the industry is delivering against the goals set out within the Sustainable Rail Blueprint (SRB). The SRB is the industry-wide strategy for sustainable rail, it is currently in final consultation phase and will be published shortly. 

We’ll need your support in adopting these metrics to measure the industry’s performance in a consistent and robust manner. 

Through the Sustainable Rail Data Framework, we’ll measure, collate, and report progress against the environmental and social issues that make a difference to our network, our communities, and our planet.

So how can we begin to measure the circular economy performance of the whole industry? In partnership with Ricardo, a global engineering, environmental, and strategic consultancy, and many of our member organisations, we have recently completed the first phase of a project to develop a suite of metrics that quantify rail's performance across circular economy, waste management and resource management. This is aligned to the Zero Waste Flagship Goal within the SRB. Integrating these metrics across the rail industry will enable consistent measurement and support wide scale adoption of circular economy principles across its assets, infrastructure, and operations.

The first phase of the project involved three main tasks: 

  1. Produce a longlist of metrics - establishing a baseline of existing reporting, data flows, and metrics used across the industry and the wider economy. 
  2. Produce a shortlist of metrics - undertaking a critical assessment using Multi-Criteria Analysis to prioritise the metrics according to their relevance, feasibility, and practicality.
  3. Outline the data collection plans - with the help of stakeholder interviews, focused on developing plans for how these metrics could be implemented. 

The recommended metrics have been mapped across the four strategic areas that support the SRB’s Zero Waste topics: 

  • zero waste journeys
  • circular design
  • circular operations
  • sustainable procurement. 

The metrics are split into two categories: core and progressive.

The core metrics were selected as being the highest priority for the rail industry to adopt. This was based on the findings from the stakeholder interviews. These revealed what information is already collected by industry, where new data will be required, and which metrics could be most readily implemented by rail organisations to enable effective measurement of circular economy performance. 

The progressive metrics were identified as being more ambitious indicators for longer-term adoption. 

Data collection plans were developed for all core metrics. These plans aim to outline, at a high-level, the steps and resources needed to collect and process the data. To find out more about the detail behind each metric or explore the proposed data collection plans download the full report on Zero Waste Metrics .

We now need to trial how these metrics and data plans will work in practice. For the second phase of this project, we will be working with rail organisations to pilot the implementation of these data collection plans. The results will allow us to refine the recommended metrics and develop guidance to enable our members to consistently and effectively collect, measure, and report on the industry’s circular economy performance. 

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our Sustainable Rail Programme Assistant for more information.
Samuel Jones
Tel: 0203 142 5370