Feature: A ‘whole-life’ approach to rail sustainability
Siemens has established a global measure to benchmark green cities and is now considering a whole-life approach to rail sustainability including the development of associated standards.
In Australia and New Zealand, increasing population, urbanisation, globalisation and climate change are making the need for sustainable technology throughout the life of a product and beyond much stronger. Two-thirds of Australians and New Zealanders live in major cities, creating daily transport challenges.
According to Siemens executive manager Matt McInnes, Australia needs to find ways to provide more efficient services and reduce the full-life environmental impact of transport.
“The challenges are growing as our cities begin to reach their capacity and show signs of fatigue. Sustainable practices will become a critical tool in this battle, reducing the reliance on raw materials and lowering production costs,” McInnes says.
“This is what we call a whole-lifecycle approach.”
McInnes says it is “too easy” to consider only emissions at the point of consumption in the sustainability debate, and while it is important to start somewhere, there is a need to strive for end-to-end consideration.
Siemens’ holistic approach to sustainability for rail includes trying to take all factors of the supply and product life cycle chain into account, which means reducing reliance on raw materials and being confident that the end product won’t end-up in landfill at the end of its life.
“The most enlightened customers already want suppliers to provide a disposal concept at the beginning of the project, but rather than being a 'nice-to-have', the challenge for the supply industry is to make it cost competitive,” McInnes says.
This can be a very challenging task. While raw materials are still relatively cheap, rising costs and policy changes require a consideration of “full-life implications”.
The latest rolling stock being produced is indeed taking into account the total life cycle of equipment. Siemens’ new Inspiro metro platform, for example, is a vehicle based on a building-block platform and pre-fabricated modules.
“This new approach has helped to dramatically reduce the production cost of individual vehicles without sacrificing quality,” McInnes says.
One of the forerunners in rolling stock sustainability is Metro in Oslo which sets a record rate in recycling: approximately 85% of an Oslo metro train is recycled with another 10% burned to produce energy.
However, according to McInnes, operators are looking for solutions that provide a reliable and clean source of power beyond rolling stock.
“In Portland, US, we are supplying 18 light rail cars with 80% of the electricity required for production to be supplied by a two-megawatt solar power plant,” he says.
The automotive industry, which is relatively mature in terms of recycling, benefits from ISO recycling standards already. These standards provide a consistent platform to measure achievement that are currently non-existent in the rail industry.
However, major suppliers, including Siemens, have initiated a uniform recycling guideline in conjunction with the Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE). Such a guideline might also one day serve as a possible standard for other means of transportation such as ships and planes.
McInnes believes that the guideline will help to make sustainability standards more commonplace across the rail industry.
Green Cities Index
With the world’s largest environmental technology portfolio, sustainability is big business to Siemens, representing around AU$35bn in annual revenue. The company has also been acknowledged for the fourth consecutive year in achieving the accolade of the most sustainable company in the diversified industries category of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
This year the company will launch the Green Cities index for Australia and New Zealand, completing a worldwide study which assesses global cities on their environmental performance. The Green City Index takes into account eight major indicators per city, touching on a wide range of environmental areas, from environmental governance and water consumption to waste management and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Benchmarking achievement is the first critical step in understanding where we are as nations and what we need to do in order to continue progress,” McInnes concludes.
Weekly Top Stories
- Abbott ignores rail in budget response
- Authority tells FMG to restructure pricing
- Albanese: Get Metro done
- Call put out for Moorebank bidders
- Cross River Rail in fund fight
- News in Brief