High-speed rail can contribute to a more sustainable transportation system and features a carbon footprint up to 15 times less carbon intensive than car and aviation travel, according to two new reports published for the International Union of Railways (UIC) by Systra Consulting. Using case studies and various data, the reports also outline the benefits of high-speed rail in terms of speed, reliability, comfort and safety.
The main report, titled “High Speed Rail and Sustainability,” considers the social, economic and environmental aspects of high-speed rail performance and makes a case for why rail has a major advantage in all three areas, according to the UIC. The accompanying background report, titled “Carbon Footprint of High Speed Rail Lines,” features case studies from four high-speed rail lines — two in Europe and two in Asia — and offers a “transparent, robust assessment of carbon emissions for each route, including the planning, construction and operation phases,” UIC officials said in a press release
For example, emissions on the high-speed Méditerranée line from Valence to Marseille, France, averages 11.0g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per passenger kilometer, compared to 151.6g of CO2 per passenger km for car and 164.0g CO2 per passenger kilometer for air. The environmental “pay back” time — or the length of time it takes for the emissions saved by new high-speed services to exceed the additional emissions produced through the line’s construction — was 5.3 years, according to the report.
In Spain, 48,000 less tons of CO2 now are produced on the Madrid-Seville corridor since that high-speed line is complete, the report said.
The reports also provide information on the economic benefits of high-speed rail. For example, in Lille, France, a new inner-city high-speed rail station was built to help stimulate redevelopment of the city. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of tourists visiting the city increased 15-fold, according to the report.
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