In July 2020, Network Rail published the Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy – Interim Programme Business Case which sets out options to deliver the most cost-effective combination of electrification, hydrogen and battery operation across the GB rail network.
As a part of our DECARB research programme we conducted projects that have included Carbon Measurement and whole life cost, incentivisation and targets. In forthcoming projects we plan to create a lifecycle carbon reporting and performance management system for the industry.
Railway Carbon Measurements (T1197)
The T1197 project aimed to develop a comprehensive assessment of the rail carbon footprint. comprehensive understanding of the carbon impacts of the railway is needed so that the whole life implications of different traction, property and infrastructure options can be assessed.
Making up 34% of the nation’s carbon footprint, the transport sector is the UK’s greatest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Given this, reducing emissions within the transport sector is critical for the national climate change strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
During 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020, the rail sector emitted approximately 9.5 MtCO2e both directly from its own activities and indirectly through activities in its value chain. This is about 66% larger than estimated in carbon assessment project T913 in 2010.
As Network Rail are responsible for managing the infrastructure that the rail sector depends on, they are the largest emitter in the industry and responsible for almost 2/3rds of the footprint. The train operating companies (TOC) and freight operating companies (FOC) are the next highest emitters, mainly due to the emissions from traction power.
The largest source of emissions in the industry is embodied carbon. That is, the emissions associated with the extraction, manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining, and disposing of materials and products used in the railway infrastructure and other assets.
This is followed by traction diesel (gas oil). Traction electricity is the third largest source of emissions within the industry. This is based on the UK’s average national grid electricity emission factor, in accordance with the location-based accounting approaches used in national carbon reporting.
The report has outlined four key recommendations to improve the accuracy in measuring the carbon footprint of the rail sector in GB, and in turn drive down carbon emissions:
- Implement an emissions reporting system in line with the ‘guiding hand’ approach that adheres to the GHG Protocol Standards and to ISO 14064 principles of GHG accounting.
- TOCs and FOCs should calculate their full footprints, both directly in the emissions they produce and indirectly through their supply chains as a priority.
- As embodied carbon emissions within the supply chain are the largest source of emissions in the rail sector, stakeholders should place greater focus on reducing these emissions.
- Further investigation through granular data collation should be conducted on depot emissions to understand whether these are significant, and if so, ensure they are addressed.
Interim and long-term targets to deliver rail decarbonisation (T1198)
The T1198 project developed guiding principles for the industry to consider in implementing and managing decarbonisation targets which underpin all recommendations and suggestions. We recommend that further industry guidance is developed by government, regulatory, or industry groups, based on these guiding principles, to help improve consistency of reporting across the industry.
There were three main objectives for the research:
- To define and develop an approach for target-setting
- To set and recommend how to apply targets
- To set out processes for implementing and managing targets
The reports’ guiding principles are as follows:
- Each stakeholder should only report on emissions sources relevant to them, and that are material to their organisation.
- Data reported should be complete, including all material emissions. Efforts to collect and report on data should be proportionate to the magnitude of the emissions source’s contribution to the stakeholder’s overall emissions.
- Clear boundaries and timescales for collecting and reporting on emissions should be agreed, which should be consistent across the industry.
- Data reported should be accurate and include appropriate consideration of embodied emissions within materials, products, assets and services procured from third parties where possible.
- Data and calculation methodologies across the industry should be transparent, as well as subject to periodic reviews of processes, updating guidance as needed.
Specific recommendations for managing and implementing carbon targets are outlined in Figure 1 within the report.
Incentivising decarbonisation of the railway (T1201)
The T1201 project is a detailed review of ways to incentivise a transition to lower carbon forms of traction, capital and major refurbishment works.
This project will deliver:
- A set of options for mechanisms, including policy, regulatory, standards, funding, contractual, economic and performance management, that may be applied within the rail industry to incentivise whole-life, whole-system decarbonisation, evaluated against possible future industry structures and commercial arrangements.
- An economic and financial appraisal of options, both individually and in combination, showing how they will be able to deliver interim and long-term decarbonisation targets in line with agreed decarbonisation pathways.
- Recommendations on implementation, including appropriate oversight bodies, both existing and proposed, to the extent known during the project, for the management and delivery of decarbonisation incentive mechanisms.
This project is currently in progress.