Another of our sustainability principles is as follows: “We utilise natural resources responsibly and work to reduce the negative impact our business activities have on the environment and society.”
This principle forms the basis for several other goals for 2020. For example, we plan to maintain or increase the already high share of renewable energy sources used to generate the electricity we need for our operations. It is also important to us that we reduce our energy consumption in general and limit the amount of noise, vibrations and pollution caused by our operations.
A railway tunnel is creating new wildlife habitats
BLS construction projects are supervised by environmental specialists. It is important that such projects are also carried out with due consideration of the nature in the immediate environment. For example, during the construction of the new Rosshäusern Tunnel, BLS rewilded a brook in the immediate vicinity. In addition, the old tunnel has been preserved as a wildlife habitat. This is a holistic approach that balances the needs of wildlife, residents and BLS itself.
Resources and use of materials
BLS utilises a variety of resources, the majority of which are the construction materials needed for our railway infrastructure. Such materials include ballast, tracks and sleepers, the lubricants and chemicals used in our workshops and the de-icing salt that we spread on our platforms.
Global resource scarcity presents a challenge to us as well. With regard to the value chain as a whole, we therefore plan to achieve major progress over the next few years with the systematic management and reduction of the materials we employ. We will also extend the service life of our production materials and increase the use of recyclables and recycled materials.
Waste and recycling
Our customers only feel comfortable if they are able to travel in clean trains, buses and boats and enjoy well-maintained railway stations, stops and wharfs. For this reason, more than 100 BLS employees remove more than 1,000 tonnes of paper, PET bottles, aluminium and other waste from trains, buses, boats and public facilities each year, and also clean all vehicles and public facilities.
However, the largest amount of waste by far – 35,000 tonnes per year – is produced through construction activities, railway infrastructure maintenance and vehicle maintenance. Our Group-wide Waste Disposal Manual lays out a professional approach to the collecting and storing of materials such as ballast, sleepers, hazardous waste and metals. Material recycling activities are carried out for us by external, certified, expert and environmentally friendly service providers.
A more sustainable approach here is to avoid waste altogether, among other ways by creating closed-loop material cycles. BLS is pursuing such an approach within the framework of its optimised materials strategy – starting with the procurement of products. For example, the new rail vehicles purchased by BLS not only have to be safe, reliable, energy efficient and low in emissions; they also have to be long-lasting and, above all, made of materials that can later be converted into secondary raw materials.
Energy efficiency and climate protection
Our mobility requirements in Switzerland account for more than one-third of the country's final energy consumption. With 55 million passengers per year, as well as 1.25 million vehicles transported on the Lötschberg line and a huge amount of freight transport, BLS is an important player in the Swiss transport system. However, BLS also makes a key contribution to climate protection, as hydropower accounts for more than 95 per cent of the electricity used to drive our trains.
Increasing energy efficiency is a major priority at BLS. The focus here is on the identification and assessment of energy-saving measures for technical systems and general operations. For example, BLS exploits energy-saving potential by improving the heating, air conditioning and lighting systems in existing trains, setting high energy efficiency standards for new trains and making engine drivers more aware of the importance of using energy responsibly. BLS is also currently developing an energy management system in order to more precisely regulate energy consumption in various areas. In addition, the company is implementing energy-saving measures for technical facilities and buildings.
It is important to BLS to take proactive measures that reduce noise emissions from trains and shunting, train-parking and construction activities. In line with this policy, BLS completed noise reduction measures on its fleet at the end of 2015: Here, all BLS passenger and freight carriages were equipped with quieter brakes made of composites, and noise barriers have been installed on nearly all rail lines.
Most of this type of work is done at night in order to keep disruptions to services at a minimum. This, however, can also lead to disturbing construction noises. BLS always makes sure it informs local residents of such activities in advance and we also develop solutions with partners and suppliers in situations where very loud work needs to be performed.
People tend to hear more noise these days due to the increase in the number of trains that now travel on the rail network, or which have to be shunted and parked, as well as the greater number of urban residential housing units now located near tracks. In addition, modern passenger trains equipped with complex technical systems and equipment make a lot more noise when parked than older trains do. BLS is looking to implement innovative solutions here – for example completely shutting down sub-systems (“sleep mode”).
The extensive rail network in Switzerland means that rail operators use a lot of land and also cut through landscapes and animal and plant habitats. At the same time, the embankments, hedges and woods along tracks offer a valuable ecological habitat for flora and fauna. Rare plants and small animals have in fact found new homes as a result of extensive upkeep measures, the promotion of ecological niches and the restoration of migration routes by BLS along its more than 490-kilometre rail network.
A special register contains the names of all locations where underlying soil has been damaged or contaminated by workshops or filling stations. These locations pose no risk to the people who live in the vicinity, or to groundwater, which is why no clean-up work is necessary.
Easy boarding, barrier-free access to information, travelling safely – everyone benefits from unobstructed mobility. By the end of 2023, our passengers will be able to enjoy barrier-free access to all stations and trains throughout the entire BLS network. In this manner, BLS will meet the requirements of the Swiss Disability Discrimination Act in all of its trains and at all of its 119 stations and stops.