If God had intended us to fly, he’d have never given us railways.
– Michael Flanders (1922–1975)
British humourist, singer, lyricist and actor Michael Flanders was a big fan of trains. In fact, one of his most famous songs, Slow Train, written in 1963, lamented the closure of several railway stations in Britain. Had he still been alive, he would have had a big reason to rejoice because trains have made a come-back and not just in Britain, but all over the world. Some travellers are now shifting to trains instead of flights to cut down their carbon footprint. Around the world, countries are taking steps to encourage train travel as it is more sustainable.
On 20 December 2019, Germany’s Upper House of Parliament approved a plan to make rail travel cheaper by 10% from 1 January 2020 as part of the Government’s new set of measures to combat climate change. Sweden and France are investing in a new fleet of trains to accommodate the growing tribe of travellers who are avoiding flights. Ireland recently announced that it has allocated €1bn for investment in the country’s heavy rail infrastructure over the next 5 years.
In India too, the Central Government is looking at expanding its railway network. However, Indian Railways is not just on an expansion spree. It’s taking steps to become more environment-friendly too.
According to NITI Aayog, carbon dioxide emission from Indian Railways was around 6.84 million tons in 2014 and Indian Railways intends to cut down this figure substantially in the coming years with a goal of transforming Indian Railways into 100% Green Railways in the next ten years. In fact, work is already underway to make Indian Railways the world’s first net-zero railway to help reduce environmental pollution.
IR has set a target of 100% electrification of its tracks by 2022. This will not only help reduce its carbon footprint but also enable financial savings through reduction in fuel cost.
Indian Railways has already provided 100 per cent LED lighting at all the railway stations, and solar panels in many stations. To improve the green coverage, Indian Railways is also planting one crore saplings every year and around 15,000 square kms of land has been provided with green coverage.
Some of the other steps taken by Indian Railways in promoting energy sustainability initiatives include adopting energy efficiency practices, enabling fuel efficiency, setting up solar energy installations and switching to bio-diesel.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is working closely with Indian Railways to promote the greening of the Railways.
In September 2019, the Ministry of Railways and CII signed a Memorandum of Understanding to foster green initiatives in the country.9 Efficiency in manufacturing facilities, greening of the railway properties, and better waste management, amongst others are some of the identified objectives.
One important aspect of this mission is to promote green railway stations. CII, through its initiative, the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), has developed a voluntary and consensus-based rating system with the support of the Environment Directorate of Indian Railways. This is the first of its kind holistic rating system which addresses environmental sustainability issues at railway stations. It also facilitates adoption of green concepts and helps understand the measures that are needed on a continual basis.
The Secunderabad railway station became the country’s first railway station to receive the CII-IGBC Platinum Rating. More than 30 railway and metro stations have been recognised and awarded by IGBC since then. In March 2019, the Vijayawada railway station was designated a ‘Green Railway Station’ and received a ‘Gold Rating’ from CII-IGBC. The Tirupati railway station also received the ‘Gold Rating’ in April 2019.
Indian Railways is actively pursuing sustainability and going green to save the environment and reduce operational costs and CII will be with it every step of the way!