We also have a socio-economic impact through our own expenditure, such as procurement, investments and salaries. This means for instance that we contribute to the added value and employment opportunities of our suppliers. The economic benefits were €1,370 million of added value at suppliers (2018: €1,375 million), in the form of approximately 20,630 jobs.
We are able to extend our positive societal impact yet further through sustainable procurement, e.g. for major categories of purchases such as trains (and train components), buildings and infrastructure, IT and energy.
In addition, we have an impact on the areas surrounding our stations. This impact consists primarily of enhancing accessibility for local residents (as reflected in travel times and mobility) and the contribution to improving the living environment, for example through commercial activity around stations.
Case study: Socio-economic impact of circular train modernisation
NS aims to achieve 100% circularity of its operations by 2030. The example below shows how we apply that ambition to our train modernisation programme.
Socio-economic impact analysis of train modernisation
The trains of NS reach the end of their service lives after 20 years of use. We then face the choice of either buying new trains or upgrading existing trains for another 18 years of service in passenger transport. NS is currently upgrading 80 double-decker trains (VIRM1) with a total of 415 carriages, and has thus removed the need to purchase new trains.
The upgrade involves reuse of 86% of all train components, which allows us to recover more than 20 million kilos of material that would otherwise become waste. The avoided production of new materials also helps to reduce negative ecological impacts such as CO2 emissions, raw material depletion and the release of substances that are harmful to the environment and to humans. As such, the reuse of train components prevents a total of 18 million euros' worth of negative ecological impacts.
Second lease of life for VIRM1 train components
Train components that remain after the upgrade are placed in stock to ensure quick replacement of faulty parts in operational trains. We also check whether any parts could be used for other model series, as is the case with traction parts, for instance. When parts can no longer be used in trains, we find out whether they could be put to use in other applications. For example, train ceiling boards are given a second lease of life as desk tops, and train floor boards can be turned into new products such as table-tennis tables, acoustic panels and items of furniture. By keeping materials in the cycle for longer, we avoid negative ecological impacts - just as with train upgrades.
So far we have managed to give a second lease of life to 16,000 kilos of ceiling boards (as desk tops) and 156,000 kilos of floor boards (as acoustic panels and items of furniture). This has enabled us to avoid a total of 108 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which equals the annual CO2 uptake of a forest the size of 25 football pitches. The figure below indicates the extent to which giving a second lease of life to ceiling and floor boards helps to prevent ecological impacts by avoiding the use of new raw materials for these products. Materials that are not suitable for reuse in other applications are recycled. Examples include the processing of rubber fittings into rubber playground tiles, and the use of side walls and luggage racks for dyke reinforcement.
Considerations when upgrading VIRM1 trains
In order to make a balanced choice between ‘renovating old parts’ and ‘applying new parts’, we take account of the tightened statutory requirements and weigh up against each other the benefits of comfort for passengers, sustainability and cost.
By making conscious choices in applying new parts in the modernisation programme, we have reduced our energy consumption by 2.7%. For example by using flush rook structures to reduce air resistance, more energy-efficient climate control systems and intelligent LED lighting in trains. This yields annual energy savings in upgraded VIRM trains that equal the average consumption of almost 450,000 households.
In addition, we have enhanced comfort for passengers by installing new seats, making the toilets wheelchair-accessible, and adding power outlets, Wi-Fi and reading lights in the luggage racks. By modernising the train interior we have also increased the number of seats, adding over ten seats per train, on average. This means that we need almost two trains less to meet the same level of demand for transport, saving €462,000 in negative ecological impacts through avoided material use.
The success of the modernisation programme for VIRM1 trains has contributed to our decision to also upgrade the 45 VIRM2/3 trains (instead of buying new trains). The first upgraded trains from this series will start running in 2021. The lessons learned will be taken into account in future modernisation programmes and decisions on the purchase of new trains. This enables us to continuously improve ourselves - with a view to the future and our ambition to keep materials in the cycle for high-grade uses for as long as possible.