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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Rail freight has ‘significant potential’ to lower CO2 emissions

Up to 20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from freight – some 7% of the total emissions from road and rail freight – could be reduced through full use of main rail corridors and the primary rail network in 2020, a new study examining the potential modal shift from road to rail has concluded.

The study, ‘Potential of modal shift to rail transport – Study on the projected effects on GHG emissions and transport volumes’ was commissioned by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the International Union of Railways (UIC) to consider the potential levels of modal shift to rail, and in particular the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction savings that could result.

It was undertaken by the consultancies CE Delft (Netherlands) and TRT (Italy).

The study gives important detail on how modal shift to rail can help reach the targets outlined in the European Commission’s recent Transport White Paper.

An assessment of the available infrastructure capacity shows that through maximising use of existing infrastructure alone, a 30-40% growth in train kilometres in 2020 could be accommodated.

If this increased capacity was allocated equally to freight and passenger services, rail freight traffic could grow by 83% and passenger transport by 23% over the whole network.

The report says there is particular scope for rail freight to increase its market share in certain segments such as international containerised transport, with the feasibility of growth already clearly demonstrated in countries such as Switzerland, and at the port of Rotterdam where levels of modal split that include the doubling of rail traffic have been set for hinterland container traffic.

For passenger transport, the GHG reduction potential is less clear-cut, although the maximum modal shift calculated has been a reduction of 70 Mtonne CO2-eq. in the EU-27 (9% of passenger transport emissions).

UIC Director General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said:

“This report provides clear evidence that attracting freight and passenger traffic onto rail can significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transport.

“Modal shift to rail has other benefits too, such as reduced traffic congestion, better air quality and fewer accidents.

“To make this happen there should also be a greater degree of complementarity between different transport modes, so that rail can become the backbone of a truly sustainable transport system.”

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