High speed rail is playing a crucial role in lowering carbon dioxide emissions, according to European research.
High speed rail releases seven times less CO2 than car journeys and around nine times less than flights per passenger kilometre, according to ‘High Speed Rail and Sustainability’ published The International Union of Railways.
Indeed, rail is widely acknowledged as the most carbon efficient form of mass transport in the world.
It is the overview of CO2 emissions that is particularly interesting.
Among all sectors the transport sector is the only one in which emissions are continuing to rise despite technological advances.
Transport emissions in Europe increased by 25% between 1990 and 2010, while energy and industrial sector emissions fell.
The transport sector’s alarming performance is largely due to road traffic which accounts for 73% of global emissions.
European rail accounts for just 1.6% of emissions, while it transports 6% of all passengers and 10% of all freight.
High speed rail offers an alternative to short-haul flights and long distance car journeys.
Studies into the Madrid-Seville AVE line revealed that without high speed rail an additional 48,000 tonnes of CO2 would be produced on this route every year.
There are further, broader environmental factors to consider:
- HSR runs entirely on electric power, so it is capable of shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy (In Spain 46% of energy used by trains comes from renewable sources)
- 80% of rail transport in Europe is powered by electricity, so the vast majority of trains emit no local air pollutants where they operate
- The rail industry has a driving role in research for technical innovations to improve energy efficiency, including: lighter vehicles, improved aerodynamics, eco-driving techniques, regenerative braking
The report can be read in full here