Preventing rAilway Wildlife CollisionS

Project information

  • Acronym : PAWS
  • Preventing rAilway Wildlife CollisionS
  • Sector : Sustainability
  • Project start date : 01/01/2024
  • Duration : 24 months
  • Project director : Frédéric Henon
  • Project manager : Lorenzo Franzoni
  • Status : ongoing project
  • Project code : 2024/RSF/839

Project description

The United Nations’ Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) and the EU Commission have set clear goals and strategies to protect biodiversity, prevent habitat fragmentation, and halt the extinction of threatened species by 2050. These actions contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 15, which aims to protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems. In line with these targets, the UIC’s REVERSE project has taken the first steps to minimise the impact of railway infrastructure and operations on habitats and address biodiversity for the first time in the UIC work programme.

The project integrates the mitigation hierarchy into all management plans, aiming to prevent, minimise, or mitigate adverse impacts on ecosystems. It also recognises that the issue of wildlife collision is not a top priority in biodiversity management, highlighting the need for harmonized approaches across various disciplines to mitigate animal collision issues on railways.

Wildlife-train collisions, especially with large mammals, can be minimised by installing fencing, wildlife bridges, ecoducts, automated detection systems, and sonic deterrents. Despite the high costs, these measures are crucial during the construction of new lines and the upgrading of existing ones. The project aims to better understand the operational and infrastructural bottlenecks leading to increased animal collisions and their consequences. It also seeks to integrate biodiversity topics into operational and asset management, publish guidelines on preventing collisions with animals, and promote biodiversity conservation. Ultimately, the project ensures that railways act as safe, reliable, environmentally sound, and caring means of transport.

Project objectives

The project aims to form a dedicated multidisciplinary team within UIC. The goal is to exploit the most effective and known solutions to minimise Wildlife-Train Collisions (WTCs) and to preserve biodiversity. This will be achieved by implementing environmentally friendly and permeable solutions while maintaining the performance of the railway operations. Animal collisions impact several areas of railway operations and infrastructure, including disruptions to railway traffic, adverse impacts on operational performance, threats to safety and economic risk due to problems occurred on infrastructure and rolling stock, and threats to biodiversity assets, particularly along the network.

The project will build upon this set of information and guidelines. Current measures need to be evaluated under both a safety perspective and an ecological compliance. For instance, the “UIC Guidelines on Managing Railway Assets for Biodiversity” highlights that special attention should be given to the issue of fencing to avoid fragmentation. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have preliminary studies on the collision’s hotspots, and to set a clear guiding document on how to build fences that comply with safety requirements as well as help to thriving wildlife. If the project is not initiated, there will be a lack of a platform for international discussions between railway experts and ecologists, and railway companies may continue to face economic consequences from animal collisions and harming biodiversity.

Within the project, participants will collect, analyse and evaluate case studies on the matter in order to create a library of international best practices to exploit “driving changes” methods and solutions. The evaluation will also encompass the implementation on local scales, according to railway’s neighbouring communities’ activities, interests and needs in order to bring an added value to the societal aspects which interact with the railway network. The best practices will be part of a report that incorporate short term designs and technical measures as well as long term plans for railway safety and ecological corridors’ development. Therefore, if the project is not initiated, there is a risk that only short-term solutions are put in place with temporary and possibly inconsistent plans which might either only impact railways’ safety and performances by focusing on habitat conservation or implement physical barriers that only prevent WTCs without considering the environmental and socio-economic impacts as a whole. Finally, the implementation of such measures might not be well perceived by neighbouring communities if not properly developed, and benefits are not adequately or credibly explained.

Project structure

This project encompasses five key work packages (WPs) :

WP1 - Analyze current collision hotspots, associated costs, and delays in participants’ networks, linking them with wildlife and biodiversity hotspots.
WP2 - Review literature and case studies on best practices for preventing animal collisions, involving collaborations with local communities and NGOs.
WP3 - Develop a framework to assess and integrate cost-effective, eco-friendly solutions, including nature-based ones.
WP4 - Formulate key recommendations for existing, upgraded, and new lines.
WP5 - Compile and publish a standardized guideline on designing animal-collision-free railways, approved by platform members. The project may hire a subcontractor for tasks ranging from data collection to final report compilation. IRS publication will also be considered.

Project members

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jeudi 30 mai 2024