Best use of railways is crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating sustainable transport systems, not least because the overall growth in the sector continues to outweigh any improvements in fuel efficiency. They offer the most energy efficient performance both according to passenger/km and tonne/km. A shift of 3% from road to rail transport corresponds to 10% decrease in GHG-emissions. Moving from road to rail is key to achieving the Kyoto Protocol targets and beyond - and, at the same time, a sustainable global transport policy for the future.

However the rail sector is not resting on its obvious energy efficiency advantage compared to other modes of transport, but needs to continuously work on how improve this, both on company and sector levels.

In 2002 the German Railways reached their aim of reducing their energy consumption by 25% of the 1990 level, three years ahead of schedule, and have already set ambitious aims for reducing energy consumption with a further 15-25% (depending on the framework conditions) by 2020. These results and ambitions are because of, among others, the ongoing ”EnergieSparen” (Save Energy) project, to reduce energy consumption to 10% by teaching and encouraging drivers to drive in a more energy-efficient way. This method is now adapted by several European railways. In the United States, where rail is the leading mode for freight transport with a market share of 40%, fuel efficiency increased by more than 60% between 1980 and 2001.

Recommendations:

• On the sector level all railway-relevant technology, including hybrid trains, which can improve energy efficiency should be brought together and assessed for potential to reduce energy consumption.1
• Development of a clear set of sustainability outcomes that rail should aim to deliver over the short, medium and long term.
• All governing bodies should provide relevant information, support, and where necessary financial assistance, to help the industry achieve these outcomes.
• Sustainability issues (such as climate change) should be considered when determining the ‘fair and efficient allocation of the capacity of railway facilities’ and when reviewing the electricity charging regime.

Notes

1. http://www.rtcc.org/2007/html/soc_transport_uic.html