Reduction of environmental impact in the construction of railway infrastructures achieved

21 march 2018

After four and half years of intense work, the project LIFE HUELLAS, led by CARTIF, has come to its end, achieving its main goal: minimizing the environmental impact in the construction of railway infrastructures, with a reduction of 12.9% in carbon footprint and 14.1% in water footprint.

In addition, the research team has developed an online tool which allows a detailed environmental diagnosis of the processes involved in the construction of railway infrastructures. The tool is accessible to everyone for free in order to promote the use of sustainability criteria and not just economic ones, as usual in this type of projects. This is available in

At the same time, an intelligent decision support tool for the planning phase has also been developed. Both tools include detailed knowledge and exhaustive description of more than 460 projects units, together with a collection of relevant variables and sustainability indicators grouped into environmental indicators, social indicators and economic indicators.

These developments have been proved into the demonstration phase of the project in two real works: the Ponte Ambía – Taboadela section of the Madrid – Galicia high speed line for track infrastructure, i. e. soil works (embankments, trenches, tunnels, etc.) and construction works (bridges, viaducts, drains and level crossings); and the Antequera – Loja section for the track superstructure on which the trains run, whose main elements are the ballast, sleepers, rail, electrification and signalling. These two pilot works have served to carry out the parametric adjustment of the tool and achieve a reduction of the environmental impact with respect to the planned execution, identifying critical points and proposing options for environmental improvement.

The consortium, led by CARTIF and composed by the companies Vías y Construcciones S.A. and IK-Ingeniería, together with the University of Granada, has collected the main outcomes of the project in a Good Practice Guide, which summaries project experience and existing alternatives at the planning stage of railway infrastructures, helping to optimise their construction process in terms of sustainability criteria.

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