Looking at the performance improvement from CableGuardian, where it provides continuous monitoring of cable insulation and thus allows maintenance teams to replace cables prior to failure, also the improved delay per incident by allowing staff to pinpoint a cable theft or rodent damage immediately, the safety and performance improvements are very significant. However, the hidden carbon savings are equally significant. In the same way that thousands of kilograms of carbon would be generated with the vehicle movements related to maintenance, the same applies here. Maintenance and operations first-responders tasked with getting trains moving; maintenance staff chasing the failure, moving backwards and forward between access points; parts and equipment movement from stocking points; replacement bus services; de-training passengers; moving train staff – the list goes on and so does the carbon and air pollutants generated from any given asset failure.
So we can see that an innovation developed that was primarily aimed at safety and performance improvement, by default, can save significant amounts of carbon from the daily routine of rail operations. Even with the planned migration to zero tailpipe-emission vehicles, the improvements over the short to medium term are significant. So with support from the Regulator some modifications to the business case measures and KPIs for the regions, the rail industry could be making a more significant contribution to the environment, it just needs to measure it to be able to manage it.
So, to answer the question of what we can all do to contribute to target zero, the answer is a huge amount. Recognition from Regulators and Network Rail that hidden carbon is worth chasing and collaboration with supply chain to allow access to data could demonstrate easily captured carbon improvements for very little effort. Changes to quantifying innovation business benefits, specific carbon reduction KPIs for central and regional business and a wider consideration of how performance improvement right to the branch line will ensure that key innovations are rolled out beyond the main line. This will assist with modal shift, account for the hidden carbon within the process of asset failure remediation and degraded mode working, whilst providing the safety and performance benefits as part of the overall package.
So, with a little lateral thought and a more expansive set of carbon targets, we will see the rail industry taking what is already the best performing mode of transport for the environment to new levels of performance and leadership.