Ecological Effects of Railways on wildlifE

Rail corridors can be both a hazard and a lifeline for ecosystems.

As rail expands its capacity to meet the need to shift transport away from unsustainable modes of transport, it must provide space for wildlife to thrive.

The International Union of Railways (UIC) is seeking solutions and best practice to manage rail lineside in a way that can help halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. This website provides information about our new project, Ecological Effects of Railways on Wildlife (rEvERsE) (2020-2023).

Project information

  • Acronym: rEvERsE
  • Ecological Effects of Railways on wildlifE
  • Project director: Lucie Anderton
  • Project manager: Pinar Yilmazer
  • Status: ongoing project

REVERSE project’s aim

Our aim is to improve the understanding of the impact of railways on biodiversity and the opportunities there are to enhance it. Over three years, UIC, together with its members, will develop a Biodiversity Action Plan and international guidance for railway operators and infrastructure managers to support, protect and enhance our natural heritage.


Railway corridors can be both a hazard and a lifeline for ecosystems. Transport infrastructure can degrade ecosystems through land consumption, landscape fragmentation, barrier effects, emissions and wildlife mortality from collisions with train vehicles. These can threaten the viability of sensitive populations and alter ecosystem dynamics.

However, conversely the green infrastructure associated with rail can also provide an important role in connecting wildlife.

Railways are relatively undisturbed corridors including a mosaic of habitats such as embankments, ditches, and woodland providing linear habitat features for dispersal and foraging for a broad range of species.

These features within many parts of railways infrastructure can link otherwise isolated habitats, bringing about a more joined up network for wildlife as well as for rail users.

Passengers and society are benefiting from the ecosystem services provided by railway infrastructure properties.

Moreover, railway infrastructure sites often serve as a last refuge for rare and endangered plants, which have lost their habitat in intensively used agricultural landscapes.

In the context of the urgent need to decarbonise our transport systems, rail is expected to expand its reach and capacity as we shift from other unsustainable modes of transport to rail for both passenger and freight traffic. Across Europe, existing lines are predicted to get busier and new lines are planned, and with this growth there is risk to biodiversity.

Rail depends upon healthy ecosystems for a broad range of critical services, including soil stabilisation, flood attenuation, visual screening and carbon sequestration. Railways can play a vital role in biodiversity conservation and benefit from the enhancement of these important ecosystem services; however, rail infrastructure managers do not currently fully exploit this opportunity. They are now starting to learn of the important role they play and looking at how they can integrate biodiversity into their land management practices.

While less significant than road, railways have a direct impact on wildlife through collisions and fragmentation of habitats. Because traffic flow is much lower on railways and railway corridors are much narrower than roads, railways have lower wildlife mortality; however, trains cannot evade wildlife nor stop quickly.

Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit Adobe Stock
Photo Credit Adobe Stock

Project objectives

The International Union of Railways (UIC) is the worldwide professional association representing the railway sector and promoting rail transport.

UIC leads an innovative and dynamic sector, helping our members to find opportunities and build success.

The purpose of UIC’s Ecological Effects of Railways on Wildlife (rEvERsE) project is to understand railway’s role in the loss AND gain of biodiversity and its habitats in Europe. It will seek to set out how railways can manage land in an ecologically sensitive way, providing solutions and best practice examples.

The objectives of the project are:

  • Avoid habitat fragmentation and enhance biodiversity conservation on railways by sharing experiences and knowledge.
  • Identify how railways threaten the survival of wildlife in Europe, and how these threats can be overcome.
  • Describe and promote measures that constitute a railway contribution to the UN SDGs.
  • Provide a general understanding of the issues to meet global challenges.

Each participant in the project will have a chance to study biodiversity issues on an international level and benefit from the results.

Studies will be initially conducted across Europe and will aim to improve the future rail network by ensuring it is as sustainable as possible, particularly in regions where the rate of railway construction is currently high or set to increase.

This interdisciplinary project will link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 15 (Life on land), and will aim to bridge the gap between civil engineers and ecologists, policy and projects, scientists and practitioners. The project objectives will be realised through a combination of:

  • Technical meetings and discussions
  • Developing knowledge exchange
  • Promotion of best practice
  • Comparisons and benchmarks
  • Dissemination and communication activities
  • Attendance at international workshops and conferences
  • An international workshop organised at UIC

The overall aim of the rEvERsE project is to enable Europe’s railway system to become a global frontrunner and model for a sustainable transport system that takes social, economic and ecological aspects equally into account.

Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit: ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG
Photo Credit Adobe Stock
Photo Credit Adobe Stock

Strategic goals and action guide

Develop a vision for railways and biodiversity

Set out ambitions and commitment to conserving and enhancing biodiversity accompanied by a timeline to deliver changes. This will contribute to rail becoming the most environmentally friendly mode of transport.

Enable a cultural change to prioritise nature and the environment

Embed conservation and enhancement of biodiversity at every business level, alongside safety, performance and other environmental targets, such as achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Recognise the positive role railways have in conserving biodiversity

Engage with policy makers to ensure the beneficial role railways can have on biodiversity is recognised and incorporated into national and European Union nature conservation policies.

Value biodiversity and natural assets

Monitor and manage the status and condition of habitats and biodiversity associated with railways.

Put in place the specialist skills

Acquire specialist capabilities and competencies in ecology to fully understand these assets and deliver appropriate management actions.

Establish management plans to protect and enhance biodiversity

Develop innovative approaches to managing biodiversity assets, taking account of both the lineside and interactions with the wider landscape, and including nature based solutions specific to railways.

Implement the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy

Limit the negative impacts of railway development activities by following the principles of avoiding, minimising, restoring or offsetting impacts on biodiversity.

Monitor the outcomes of biodiversity management

Adopt consistent and repeatable approaches to monitoring the outcomes of land use management to conserve and enhance biodiversity. This is key to setting ambitious targets for biodiversity assets and improving their management, and for corporate accountability.

Take collective action for biodiversity

Work together to deliver landscape-scale benefits for biodiversity through the provision of wildlife corridors and enhanced landscape permeability for species movement.

Make a commitment to biodiversity net gain

Set ambitious targets for conserving and enhancing biodiversity, with no net loss of biodiversity by 2030, and net gain by 2050, with progress assessed through regular monitoring.

Partnership working

Seek partnerships with stakeholders to deliver benefits to biodiversity at scale and in the long term.

Share best practices

Publish and share best-practice guidelines for managing and conserving biodiversity management with one another and with stakeholders to improve their effectiveness.

Improve communications

Use a wide range of communication tools to openly communicate plans for, and approaches to, biodiversity management with employees, passengers, society and neighbours, and to disseminate progress and achievements.


Please take your time to fill in the following questionnaires:


Project’s poster

- PDF - 538.6 kb


What does biodiversity have to do with railways?
Global Railway Review Issue 6 2021
European Railways: Strategy and Actions for Biodiversity

- PDF - 7.2 Mb

UIC Guidelines on Managing Railway Assets for Biodiversity

- PDF - 8.9 Mb

Strategic goals and action guide - Poster

- PDF - 333.1 kb


Case studies

All case studies

- PDF - 4.3 Mb


1 - Where companies have had an active role in the development of national strategies for biodiversity

2 - Proactive management of habitat for rare or protected species

3 - Mitigation for impacts of operation on species (collision, electrocution, others?)

4 - Management for control of Invasive non-native species

5 - Robust, cost-effective and safe methods for collecting data (to establish a baseline)

6 - Organisational KPIs, and ideally where these have evidence of biodiversity gain

7 - Stakeholder engagement and how this has resulted in biodiversity gain

8 - Good practice in the management, accessibility, and use of Data

9 - Training of staff in biodiversity relevant skills or knowledge

10 - Examples of companies undertaking or commissioning biodiversity research


Guests and partners



UIC contact

For further information, please contact:

REVERSE in the press

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Friday 20 March 2020