IEA has just released a long report about railways worldwide.
The transport sector is responsible for more than half of global oil demand and around one-quarter of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Therefore changes in transportation are fundamental to achieving energy transitions globally. Yet while rail is among the most energy efficient modes of transport for freight and passengers, it is often neglected in public debate.
The Future of Rail examines how the role of rail in global transport might be elevated as a means to reduce the energy use and environmental impacts associated with transport.
From their findings:
Rail has a long-standing position as one of the pillars of passenger mobility and freight transport. Today, conventional rail provides nearly one-sixth of the world’s long-distance passenger travel around and between cities. High-speed rail provides a high quality substitute to short-distance intracontinental flights. In cities, metros and light rail offer reliable, affordable and fast alternatives to road travel, reducing congestion and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and local pollution. Freight rail enables high capacity goods movements over very long distances, allowing access to trade for resources that otherwise would likely be stranded and facilitating operation of major industrial clusters.
Rail is among the most efficient and lowest emitting modes of transport. With a strong reliance on electricity, it is also the most energy diverse. Rail networks carry 8% of the world’s motorised passenger movements and 7% of freight transport, but account for only 2% of energy use in the transport sector. Rail services consume less than 0.6 million barrels per day (mb/d) of oil (about 0.6% of global oil use) and around 290 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity (more than 1% of global electricity use). They are responsible for about 0.3% of direct CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and the same share (0.3%) of energy-related emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The high efficiency of train operations means that rail saves more oil than it consumes and more emissions than it generates. If all services currently performed by railways were carried by road vehicles, such as cars and trucks, then the world’s transport-related oil consumption would be 8 mb/d (15%) higher and transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would increase by 1.2 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq) on a well-to-wheel basis.