Supporting Technical Paper 2.
Introduction of Biological and Landscape diversity considerations in the development and management of rail transport networks in Europe
by Guy Berthoud, ECONAT, Switzerland
Our study is based on information compiled in their national reports by the countries taking part in the COST 341 project, “Habitat fragmentation due to transportation infrastructure”, interviews with national officials and the results of questionnaire surveys conducted among them, our own data on railway routing in Switzerland gathered in the course of environmental impact studies, and a summary analysis of a few lines chosen as being representative of the European rail network.
a period of rapid development, from the 1950s to the 1970s European rail
networks suffered a decline and low profit lines were closed as the first
motorways were built and road freight traffic developed. The construction of
high-speed lines has given rail transport a new boost, but there are still a few
countries where rail is losing out to road, particularly in the passenger
sector. These countries are now trying to make public transport more attractive.
infrastructure affects the environment in several ways during both the
construction phase and once lines are in operation. In an attempt to limit
the impact on the environment, most countries have enacted laws and introduced
guidelines and/or procedures that are designed to protect the environment and
natural landscapes, principally on the basis of environmental impact assessments
and strategic environmental assessments.
main problems encountered during the construction phase are loss of landscape
and loss of biotopes, as a result of the large areas of land needed to build
railway lines, technical constraints that make it difficult for lines to blended
into the landscape, and the use and storing of materials, notably ballast and
tunnel-building materials. Ballast is also a problem once a line is in
service, as it has to be regularly replaced and is difficult to recycle,
creating a need for more dumps.
operations bring more problems, including the risk of collisions, in particular
involving large mammals, the barrier effect, noise, animal movements along the
track, and electrocution. Other problems encountered are colonisation of
the track by numerous plant species, and the presence of vegetation that can
hamper operations as well as representing an attractive food source for animals,
bringing a risk of collisions. Such vegetation is often kept at bay by the
use of herbicides, but these, along with faecal lavatory waste, metal dust and
lubricants from passing trains, can be a source of pollution, particularly for
the groundwater and soil.
number of measures have been taken to combat these harmful effects. They
include the construction of special wildlife crossings (under- and overpasses),
track fencing, covered cuttings, moderate and reasonable use of chemical
herbicides, machine mowing at times likely to cause least disturbance to
wildlife, and landscaping of embankments.
measures are still under study. They include adapting ballast size in
selected places to facilitate the crossing of amphibians, reptiles and small
mammals, the use of anti-perch devices, and extra large insulators to reduce the
risk of electrocution, and winter feeding of certain species of wildlife to
encourage them to stay away from railway lines.