For decades, railway issues were considered, in Europe, as being almost entirely in the responsibility of the Member States. This history is even reflected in the present eu approach on railway issues which has, as one of its political priorities, the objective to ensure the interoperability of national legal and technical standards all over the eu. The development of trans-European transport networks, the upcoming of high-speed transboundary trains and the internationalisation of railway freight transport which are of relative recent date, all contribute to the greater awareness of railway impacts on the environment. Policies can no longer promote railways with the argument that rail is the most environment-friendly means of transport, but are more and more obliged to take into consideration, during the planning and operation of railways, local, provincial and regional environmental concerns.
The contribution passes in review the most relevant environmental concerns with regard to railways. After a short description of the regulatory frame, the different environmental aspects of railways – land use, nature conservation, noise, water, air pollution, and waste management – are discussed. Some concluding remarks follow.