Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB): Interim and long-term targets to deliver rail decarbonisation

United Kingdom

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Getting to Net Zero through collaboration

The transport sector accounts for a third of all UK emissions, and plays a key role in helping the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. AECOM recently worked with RSSB to help the Department for Transport (DfT) define the rail industry’s decarbonisation pathway, and to set the pace of change for railways over the next 30 years.

One of the challenges in decarbonising the rail network is the many different stakeholder groups that make up the rail industry, and how these interact. For example, Network Rail own and operate the rail tracks as well as some stations, Freight Operating Companies (FOCs) and passenger Train Operating Companies (TOCs) run the trains on the networks and Rolling Stock leasing Companies (ROSCOS) lease the trains that actually run on the tracks to the operators. This can lead to complexities when it comes to identifying who controls, influences and manages the many different sources of carbon emissions in the rail industry, and what role each organisation can play in achieving net zero.

RSSB contracted AECOM for this project to engage with stakeholders from across the industry, to create a set of pathways and potential interim decarbonisation targets that take these diverse perspectives into account, and that is relevant and applicable to organisations across GB rail.

Setting the direction of the industry

To capture the views from across the rail industry AECOM ran a series of virtual workshops with more than 80 stakeholders, including representatives from DfT, train operators, and organisations from across the rail supply chain. The workshops yielded unique insights – for example, the importance of aligning individual organisational plans and initiatives with wider step changes such as electrification of the railway to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon target.

Using information gathered from consultations with the rail industry, as well as data from existing models and recent research, AECOM developed a timeline to demonstrate how the rail industry is expected to change up until 2050 based upon current targets, ambitions and interdependencies, and applied this to a 2019 rail industry carbon emissions baseline developed in a separate RSSB research project. AECOM then developed a set of scenarios for decarbonisation of different emission sources up to 2050. Recommendations were made on the potential approach to be taken by the Department for Transport (DfT) to set carbon targets, improvements for interim target pathways and suggested future work.

To help define responsibilities for decarbonisation of the various elements of the rail industry carbon footprint we developed a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) matrix. We also suggested specific actions for each stakeholder group (Government, regulator and industry bodies, Network Rail, TOCs, FOCs, ROSCOs, and supply chain) as part of the advice and guidance on targets and pathways that this project provided to DfT and the rail industry.

Notable outputs from the project included:

  • Decarbonisation pathways for the GB rail industry, with potential interim targets between now and 2050
  • Recommendations tailored to specific rail industry stakeholder groups so that the responsibility for different elements of the rail carbon footprint lies with the right organisation, helping to make the pathways and targets more actionable and achievable
RSSB thanked the team for its hard work “from arranging and leading very useful workshops, providing good quality content / outputs, and always responding quickly”.