The growing urgency around climate change and energy consumption has prompted a significant response from the rail industry over the past decade. It has responded with major initiatives around the globe. For example, in Germany, national rail company Deutsche Bahn has replaced tens of thousands of incandescent lights with LEDs. In the United Kingdom, rail managers have upgraded existing lines, like the HS1, to run entirely on renewable energy.
Another major change is that train stations themselves are becoming more eco-friendly and energy-efficient. These are some of the most significant changes transit authorities have made to reduce the environmental impact of train stations and cut down on emissions caused by rail travel and freight.
Green Innovations at a New Bay Area Rapid Transit Station
In 2017, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officially opened a new station in Fremont, in California’s East Bay. The new Warm Springs/South Fremont Station was billed as BART’s most sustainable station yet, built with several eco-friendly features “baked in” to the station design.
Among other features, the new Fremont station includes solar panels on the station’s roof, charging stations for electric vehicles and biological water filtration systems called “bioswales.”
Bioswales are stormwater runoff management systems made out of native grasses, pebbles, shrubs, swan hill oak trees and similar landscaping elements. These systems pull in and filter rainwater that would typically run off roofs and paved surfaces, carrying pollutants with them to local waterways.
At the new station, rainwater is captured in an underground surge basin after being filtered through the bioswale system. The water there can then be used in the station itself or slowly released in a way that won’t overwhelm local drainage areas.
The station isn’t the only BART initiative that aims to improve the eco-friendliness of Bay Area transit. In 2013, the system announced that it would use more than 1,300 tons of recycled waste tires to reduce vibration on an extension project near Fremont.
The project, which used shredded tires in place of gravel, is one recent example of how used car parts can be recycled and put to use.
Hong Kong Rail Station Features Garden Roof
Other, more recent projects have also used landscaping and natural design elements to improve sustainability.
For example, the new Hong Kong West Kowloon railway station, which opened in September 2018, features a curved “green roof” dotted with more than 700 trees.
Built to function as both a public space and transit hub, the station is also remarkably sustainable. The green roofscape, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, also captures and filters rainwater, much like the Fremont station in California.
Deutsche Bahn’s “Green Station” Initiative
Germany has been a world leader in the adoption of green tech and transportation practices. One of the best examples of this has been the “Green Station” initiative led by Deutsche Bahn, the private railway company owned by the German federal government.
The project made headlines in the mid-2010s when the company produced the world’s first zero-carbon train station in Kerpen-Horrem, in western Germany.
This was an early example of how modern stations are compatible with eco-friendly design decisions. For example, the station in Kerpen-Horrem has an energy-efficient lighting system that uses a combination of LEDs, natural light and light-reflecting architecture to provide consistent illumination to the station with minimal energy consumption.
Since then, Deutsche Bahn has continued to make major strides in sustainable railway management and design, powering 33 of the company’s stations with entirely renewable energy and aiming for a companywide target of 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.
Reinventing Train Stations to Improve Sustainability
These new train stations show how transit providers are rethinking design to improve sustainability. Innovations like solar power arrays, electric charging stations and biofilters can all make a structure significantly more sustainable — and they’re becoming more common in station design.