Greening of Infrastructure Assets

This special issue of Network Industries Quarterly is dedicated to the greening of infrastructure assets. Despite the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission has reaffirmed its commitment to the objectives of the European Green Deal and to transforming Europe into the first climate neutral continent by 2050. Delivering this ambition will necessitate the revision of regulatory and taxation frameworks, as well as the deployment of clean and innovative technologies. These, in turn, will have to be supported by massive public investments and increased efforts to direct private capital towards climate and environmental action while avoiding lock-in into unsustainable practices and infrastructures. Though the specific approaches to ‘greening’ of infrastructure assets may vary across the network industries, a set of questions pertaining to technology, regulation and funding will have to be addressed in all of them.

In this issue of the Network Industries Quarterly, our invited contributing authors critically examine these questions by drawing on the specific challenges and opportunities faced by the transport sector, as illustrated by the specific cases of airports, railways and ports.

The first contribution by Serafimova frames the renewed interest in infrastructure spending in the aftermath of COVID-19 as an opportunity to accelerate Europe’s transition towards climate neutrality. Taking a broader perspective on transport infrastructure assets, this article illustrates the multiple angles greening can take throughout the different, though interrelated, phases of an infrastructure’s lifespan, from planning to construction, operation and decommissioning. The article argues that the ability of infrastructures to serve as enablers for wider sectoral, but also cross-sectoral, greening, can and should be amplified by means of a conducive and coherent EU regulatory, financing and taxation framework, which engrains sustainability at its core.

Schneider demonstrates the importance of infrastructures in the fight against climate change by taking a closer look at the concrete case of airports. In particular, he argues that the impact of infrastructures does not limit itself to infrastructures’ own operations but extends to their capacity to influence and shape their users’ behaviours.

Quinet shares his analysis on the greening of trains and railway infrastructure assets in view of their enormous associated societal benefits. This article underlines, in particular, the need for infrastructure managers to follow a progressive approach, whereby actions are to be deployed over time in the most cost-effective way, depending on the portfolio of clean technologies available and the life cycle of assets.

Birindelli, Radice, Bert and Guglielmi reflect on the Italian experience in shifting towards intermodal hubs as a means to green railway stations. Drawing on experiences from Italy, where major railway stations are currently undergoing a profound transformation, this article illustrates that stations are no longer single-purpose places where trains stop to load or unload passengers but are increasingly becoming complex people-centred hubs where visitors can do much more than merely catching a train.

Sauri, Sys and Vanelslander discuss the greening of maritime shipping and ports, which are critical gateways for the European economy and global trade but also important contributors to air emissions. Their article argues that while legislation is available at various policy levels, more solutions are needed that are in a further stage of development, taking into account also the economics of the various involved actors.


Matthias Finger

Teodora Serafimova

Separate articles can be downloaded from the links below:

Greening Railway Stations: The Italian Experience towards intermodal Hubs

Valerio Birindelli, Lorenzo Radice, Nadia Bert and Germano Guglielmi

Greening of Ports: Sailing the green Course?

Sergi Sauri, Christa Sys and Thierry Vanelslander