Older train fleets tend to be based on older, less efficient technologies. In today’s context it would be inappropriate to use them for a period of over 30 years, but basic economics often prevents them from being replaced before the end of their natural life spans. However, these systems can be modernized by retrofitting newer technologies, especially newer traction power systems that are more powerful and more efficient; this transition can be accomplished quickly and at a relatively low cost.
- Action has potential to increase rail efficiency for both passenger and freight transport.
- Action is focused specifically on rail, but can have impact co-benefits for other modes through increased reliability/decreased conflicts and potentially reduced air pollution.
- Rail investments have great potential to decrease future transport emissions, due to the relative efficiency of this mode. Rail infrastructure carries 10 times more transport units per km than road, using roughly 11 times less energy per unit. Each dollar invested in rail yields 3 to 10 times less CO2 emissions, while carrying 3.5 times more transport units. The UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge provides incentives to increase rail efficiency at a global scope.
- Railway modernization can have important safety as well as energy-saving benefits. For example, the construction of grade separations between railways and roads throughout Israel is intended primarily to increase safety. There have been several accidents on level crossings, when road vehicles have become stuck on the railway track.
Status of deployment:
- A consortium of 18 partners representing major stakeholders across Europe is working together on the EU-funded MERLIN Project to develop a pan-European railway energy management system, with five case studies in four European countries helping evaluate various aspects of improved energy management. The UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge provides incentives to increase rail efficiency at a global scale.
- Over the past two decades, rail freight fuel efficiency improvement was double road freight fuel efficiency improvement. Many developed and developing countries are establishing mode share and energy efficiency improvement targets (i.e. expansion of railway networks along with energy efficiency improvements). While the planning and construction of new rail infrastructure can take several years and is often cost intensive, the addition of energy saving elements to existing infrastructure can be done much more quickly and is thus of great interest for railway companies, rail manufacturers, and operators.
- Modernizing rail fleets and tracking systems could result in 0.3-3% reduction in national transport emissions by 2030. India has targeted a 15% improvement in energy efficiency and a mode share increase from 36% to 45 % by 2020, and has targeted a shift to electricity with 80% of rail freight and 60% of passenger traffic projected to run on electric energy by 2030.The Canadian rail sector has targeted not only reduction in the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from rail operations but also aims to monitor and reduce criteria air contaminants.Australia has estimated that rail fuel efficiency improvements have the capability to reduce transport CO2 emissions, by increasing the penetration of a range of energy saving technologies such as regenerative braking, fuel cells or heat exchangers.A metro modernization contract by Alstom in Mexico City demonstrated a 35% reduction in energy consumption, increased the expected lifetime of tires by around 15%, and yielded €500,000 of annual savings through electric braking
- The International Railway Association (UIC) has proposed an ambitious transport sector challenge in the framework of the green growth agenda and climate change perspective for 2030 and 2050, i.e. to reduce specific final energy consumption (50% by 2030 and 60% by 2050) and specific average CO2 emissions from train operations (50% by 2030 and 75% by 2050), all relative to a 1990 baseline. As of October 2015, the UIC Low Carbon Rail Transport Challenge had registered projects to increase rail modal shift in Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, and Uzbekistan.