High-speed rail can cut carbon footprint

Carbon footprint is 14x smaller than car, 15x smaller than aviation

High-speed rail has a carbon footprint that is up to 14 times smaller than car travel and up to 15 times smaller than aviation – even factoring in planning and construction. This is the main conclusion of new research carried out by the consultancy Systra, commissioned by the International Union of Railways. The main report, “High Speed Rail and Sustainability”, looks into the social, economic and environmental aspects of high-speed rail. An accompanying background report, “Carbon Footprint of High Speed Rail Lines”, takes four case studies of high-speed rail lines – two in Europe and two in Asia – and carries out “a transparent assessment” of carbon emissions for each route, including the planning, construction and operation phases.
For example, emissions on the high-speed Méditerranée line from Valence to Marseille average 11g CO2 per passenger km, compared to 151.6g CO2 per passenger km for car and 164g CO2 per passenger km for air. The environmental “payback” time for this route – the length of time it takes for the emissions saved by the impact of the new high-speed services to overtake the additional emissions produced through the line’s construction – was 5.3 years.


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