Company - Network Rail

What’s the issue being addressed?

Without having a baseline embodied carbon figure to compare infrastructure project calculations against, it can be difficult to prove the comparative value in carbon savings. The benchmarking needed to be applicable to the rail industry and up to date to provide optimum value.

How was this solved?

Example projects were picked in a collaborative exercise between Network Rail and Arcadis to select a typical example for each project type that was undertaken. This retrospective assessment focused on the major design elements and key materials to calculate the embodied carbon for each project type so that future, similar projects could use the results as a baseline target for carbon reduction.

In all, 15 assessments were undertaken, looking at repairs to culverts through to installation of footbridges and construction of new station platforms. Data for materials and quantities to be included in the carbon assessment was obtained from design drawings and from discussions with design engineers.

Platform extension carbon comparison example

A comparison study of embodied carbon was undertaken for both ‘Beam and Block’, and ‘Steel and GRP’ platform extension designs, both of which have been utilised by Network Rail.

The Beam and Block platform construction comprises precast concrete blockwork cross walls, precast concrete cantilever beams with precast beam and block construction spanning between cross walls supporting G-tech coper units and surfacing. The Steel and GRP platform is simpler in construction and comprises steel trestles which support the GRP deck.

The study found that, per 4m of platform length, the materials for the Beam and Block design has embodied carbon of 2,163kg CO2e compared to 15,875 kg CO2e for the Steel and GRP platform, 86% lower.

What were the outcomes?

This benchmarking exercise has produced a strong bank of case studies that could prove extremely beneficial to Network Rail and the whole rail industry to reduce carbon during the design process. Projects could use the data contained within these assessments to formulate targets and objectives for the key materials and building elements and implement carbon reduction options.

Data from these benchmarking assessments has been made available as templates within the Rail Carbon Tool, making assessments undertaken for similar projects quicker and easier.


Reducing our environmental impact, carbon smart, optimising the railway.

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The values in this case study were calculated using version 2.0 of the ICE database and provide the average embodied carbon values published for common rail construction materials. Values for specific products may differ and this should therefore be used as a benchmark only.