If in terms of phonic pollution or chemical pollution, the European airport organisation and planning managers have adopted measures for reducing the two pollution types in the past years, planning the airport-related infrastructure (buildings, terminals, parking lots), especially for those found in the immediate neighbourhood of cities, cannot represent the object of a strategy for reducing the space and hence the pollution. The increasing mobility need noticed in the past twenty years has required airport infrastructure development. One cannot say the same thing about the infrastructure planning related to railway stations where the space intended for buildings, persons and parking lots is much more reduced, in such a way that the modernisation of railway stations located in the cities raises only the problem of noise pollution and not the one of space extension. In terms of noise pollution, the railway industry has developed some noise-reduction methods in the past years.
Projects in the transport sector are often characterized by a close interrelation between the physical infrastructure, the economics and the environmental impact. The design of airport civil works requires the knowledge of pavement specialists due to the extreme loads that the pavement is exposed to from the heavy aircraft in different climatic conditions ranging from extreme cold weather in the arctic to hot weather in the tropics. At the same time, certain parts of the pavement are exposed to fully loaded aircraft at slow speed and other parts only to occasional passes of service vehicles. In order to accommodate different aircraft mixes, flexible aircraft stands have been introduced to minimise the length of building façades and thereby to reduce initial and future cost.
With all the efforts made by the managers of the great European airports, namely those with high traffic, in order to reduce polluting emissions or spaces intended for office buildings or terminals, merchandise warehouses and for other adjacent buildings, we have to admit that due to the complexity of air transport, this transport mode will not be able to compete with railway transport as regards the reduction of the space intended for carrying out the activity.
On the other hand, even though railway transport is considered to be sustainable, railway stations usually face increasing energy demands and carbon footprint released in the environment.
A recent example of what we could call an eco railway station is Accrington, located in the northern part of the British railway network.
Completed in 2010, the building is made from recycled stone and uses photovoltaic cells to provide some of the electricity requirements, incorporates solar water heating, a wind turbine for electricity generation and rain water harvesting for flushing toilets. The thirty photovoltaic solar panels, which are expected to supply over 4,000kWh of electricity – are estimated to help reduce carbon emissions from the new station by over 2t each year.
Accrington railway station is one of the 24 rail station part of UK pilot projects supported by various county council organisations. “Building a new eco station for the town is a key part of Accrington’s transport infrastructure and will provide an ideal opportunity for more people to try different travel options rather than the car,” believes Richard Watts, Rail Projects Manager at Lancashire County Council.