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Rail (Passenger Transport)

The history of rail in the UK is long and the sector remains an essential part of the UK’s transportation network. As well as being a very efficient mode of transport, taking the train is also one of the most sustainable.

Photo of a train in motion, with a grey cloud above

Introducing passenger rail

The rail sector comprises a diverse range of operators. These include Network Rail, who maintain and improve the rail infrastructure, and various passenger train operating companies (TOCs) who provide services across urban and rural regions. These TOCs cater to a wide spectrum of travel needs, from local commuting and leisure travel to long-distance journeys.

The range of services make the UK rail system an integral part of the nation’s transportation network, providing millions of passengers with convenient, efficient, and accessible travel options daily. Rail is also vital for the transportation of goods, playing a significant role in logistics and supply chains, although this page is focused on passenger rail.

The importance of going green in rail

Going green in the UK rail industry is of paramount importance. With a growing emphasis on sustainability, TOCs are embracing sustainable practices and technologies. These include:

  • Removing diesel rolling stock to reduce carbon emissions
  • Minimising energy consumption through investments in energy-efficient technologies
  • Conserving wildlife and creating habitats to enhance biodiversity
  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling resources to foster a more circular economy.

This shift towards green initiatives is consistent with the UK’s commitment to combating climate change. It not only benefits the environment by reducing carbon emissions, but also encourages clean air and maintains homes for nature, making travel healthier and more pleasant for customers and local communities.

Depending on the scenario, travelling by rail emits 3-5 times fewer carbon emissions than driving.
Network Rail is one of the country’s largest public landowners, and is committed to achieving Biodiversity Net Gain by 2035.
Information kindly supplied by:
GoviaThamesLink logo
Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd. (GTR)

GTR are the UK’s largest railway franchise, operating Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express. GTR believe in operating in a responsible way, serving passengers and to benefit the communities around its stations.

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IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals