Wednesday 31 August 2022

UIC publishes the At-Wood project final report: “State of art report on alternatives to creosoted wooden sleepers”

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Timber sleepers are still widely used on various European rail networks, and many are still treated with creosote. Creosote oil is one of the oldest industrially used wood preservatives – and the most effective. However, over the past few years, the European Commission (EC) has restricted the use of creosote due to its toxic profile.

It is therefore important (and soon urgent) to find an alternative treatment to enable the continued use of wooden sleepers. The railway sector is also essential for ensuring the sustainability of the timber industry because it allows the promotion of secondary qualities.

In addition, finding a product that is cleaner for both the environment and human health is a challenge that is increasingly becoming part of current mentalities. Many rail networks attach importance to these considerations, and some public contracts are no longer awarded solely based on price, but also take environmental criteria into account.

This report is divided into three main parts:

  • Update on policy and legislative aspects;
  • Literature and research project review: data collection and assessment;
  • Survey of UIC members.

The European Union, which has already postponed its decision several times, must decide whether to authorise the extension of the use of creosote in October 2022, but a total ban on the use of creosote is likely soon.

This work continues that of the previous UIC group, SUWOS – “SUstainable WOoden railway Sleeper”, which finished in 2013.

Special mentions must also go to all members of the At-Wood Group, the survey participants from the TEG Group, and the UIC staff involved in producing this report over the past few years, especially the Sustainability Unit.

Link to the report: State of art report on alternatives to creosoted wooden sleepers (

For further information, please contact Marcos Da Conceição, Senior Advisor Infrastructure, at

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