ARA launches sustainability guide for path to net zero rail

The newly released Australasian Railway Association guide is set to help rail companies hurry towards a sustainable future

ARA launches sustainability guide for path to net zero rail
The ARA's new sustainability guide is set to make the net zero transition for rail companies

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has released a dedicated Sustainability Guide to support the rail industry move faster towards a net zero future.

The guide, On Track to a Sustainable Future – Australasian Railway Association Sustainability Guide, launched at ARA’s major conference AusRAIL PLUS 2023 in Sydney, offering practical solutions for small to medium-sized businesses in the rail industry.

ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie says rail will play a crucial role in Australia and New Zealand’s sustainable development and growth, making it critical to achieving net zero targets.

"Continued investment in sustainable transport systems is critical to achieving net zero targets and will drive the economy and benefit the wider community," Wilkie says.

"To achieve this, sustainability must be embedded across all aspects of the rail supply chain.

"With about a third of rail industry businesses consisting of 20 people or less, it is essential that small and medium businesses play an active role in driving sustainable outcomes to support the industry’s success."

The Sustainability Guide, produced in partnership with consultant Arup, provides practical advice on the key issues of leadership, decarbonisation, resilience, biodiversity, diversity and inclusion.

Arup Australasia rail leader Alice Reis says Arup’s involvement in the report builds on a long-term commitment to driving real change through systems thinking across the whole industry.

"The challenges we face are complex and require collaboration across all areas of the sector, as well as interdisciplinary research and thinking that drives innovation," Reis says.

"While recognising the need for cross-sector collaboration, this report provides an important focus on what a strong commitment from the rail industry to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals might look like and how that can help drive the development of safer, more resilient and sustainable railways for everyone."

Reis says it includes best practice case studies of innovations on the network and demonstrates how operators, track owners and manufacturers are working with their suppliers to deliver improved outcomes.

"There are already some fantastic examples of sustainable innovation in rail, from new construction methods to a range of measures to transition to renewable energy," Wilkie says.

"The industry is committed to continuing to work towards more sustainable outcomes across the supply chain and this guide will support further collaboration to embed sustainability at all stages of the asset lifecycle.

"This goes beyond environmental solutions and resilience measures across the rail network. It also includes a strong focus on diversity and inclusion for a more sustainable and productive workforce."

ARA research has shown that the rail industry will help lead the decarbonisation of Australia and New Zealand’s transport networks. Wilkie says rail freight generates 16 times less carbon pollution than road, while one commuter train takes 578 cars off the road.

Further work to engage industry representatives on how to implement new sustainability measures will be completed next year.

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