The carbon footprint of high speed rail (HSR) can be as much as 14 times less than that from cars and 15 times less than that from planes, two new reports have claimed.
The two studies, High Speed Rail and Sustainability and the Carbon Footprint of High Speed Rail were commissioned by the International Union of Railways (UIC).
The organisation said that for the first time, these studies had measured the “full cycle” of a high speed project including planning, construction and operation.
The main study looks at the social, economic and environmental aspects of high speed rail travel.
The second looks at four case studies of four high speed projects measuring their carbon emissions at each stage of their development.
The main study said that HSR offered “tangible advantages” over other transport modes including air, conventional rail and cars.
It said HSR combined “many of the attributes that we most desire while travelling such as speed, reliability, comfort and safety.
“HSR’s ability to compete with domestic air travel in terms of time and comfort has made a modal shift possible.”
By encouraging a shift from both air travel and cars, the report said HSR was helping to cut congestion and reducing pollution.
“By providing a suitable alternative for traditional transport modes travel which is greener and more energy efficient per passenger-kilometre it is contributing to the transport industries’ need to reduce carbon emissions,” the report said.
The four case studies in the second report were “LGV Mediterranée” from Valence to Marseille and “South Europe Atlantic-Project” in France from Tours to Bordeaux, the newly built line from Taipei to Kaohsiung in Taiwan and “Beijing–Tianjin” in China.
It found the two French projects had a far smaller carbon footprint than the Asian schemes, partly because there were fewer bridges and aqueducts.
But all four made a much lighter footprint on the environment than cars or planes.