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Rail as the Sustainable Backbone of the Energy Efficient Transport Chain - A World View

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark RobinsonORCiD



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Ontario International Development Agency , 2014.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The transport sector in 2010 was responsible for 23% of total CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in the world. In the same year road transport was responsible for 72% of total CO2 emissions caused by the transport sector globally. This high emission level was created transporting 34% of people and goods. Railway moved 9% of passengers and freight with an impact of just 3% of total transport CO2 emissions. Worldwide, CO2 emissions per passenger-km went down by 32% in the period 2000-2010. In the same period, CO2 emissions per freight tonne-km shrunk by 18%. In the European Union, railways have already largely exceeded the target of 10% renewables in the energy mix. In 2010 renewables used in the rail sector were at 18% compared with only 5% in the transport sector as a whole. This paper highlights sustainable energy policies that spur economic growth and environmental protection in a global context – particularly in terms of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The target is to mitigate their environmental impact through improved energy efficiency and development and deployment of low-carbon technologies. The paper considers rail energy and emissions statistics and presents aggregate data on a worldwide rail activity and energy use basis. The paper looks closely at railway electricity mixes in Europe as well as options to provide renewable electricity to railway operators. Moving towards sustainable mobility requires both integrated and efficient transport systems as well as secure and clean energy. Modal shifts to rail can be a major driver for decarbonisation of the transport sector, and the set of data presented illustrates this potential.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robinson M, Schut D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development

Year: 2014

Volume: 7

Issue: 4

Pages: 19-30

Online publication date: 02/09/2014

Acceptance date: 02/09/2014

Date deposited: 30/03/2015

ISSN (electronic): 1923-6662

Publisher: Ontario International Development Agency


Notes: Paper presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development, held 7-8 August 2014, Toronto, Canada.