Tuesday 22 September 2015
Sustainable Development

Rail transport and environment: new CER and UIC booklet provides facts and figures

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Rail is one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport and generates significantly lower CO2 emissions than other modes. Increasing the modal share of rail in line with 2011 Transport White Paper targets would result in an estimated reduction of 238 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to 19% of EU27 transport emissions in 2010. That is just one striking figure in the new booklet on rail and environment released today by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the International Union of Railways (UIC).

2015 is a big year for climate change policy, for which transport still presents a major challenge. The new booklet, jointly published by CER and UIC, aims to support decision makers with comprehensive data on the environmental impact of the different transport modes. It demonstrates that rail is an enabling factor for sustainable mobility because

  • Travelling by rail is on average 3-10 times less CO2 intensive compared with road or air transport
  • Rail’s share of transport energy consumption is less than 2% despite a market share of over 8.5%
  • Land use per passenger-km for rail is about 3.5 times lower than for cars
  • Rail’s average external costs (i.e. the costs of the negative effects of transport, such as air pollution, that are not paid by the users themselves but borne by the society at large) are more than four times less than road’s for passenger services, and more than six times less for freight services

In order to drive continued improvement of rail’s environmental footprint, CER and UIC’s European members have agreed targets until 2030 and a vision for sustainable mobility until 2050. These targets, adopted in 2010, have now been updated with increased ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are presented in the booklet.

The booklet can be downloaded at this link:


UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux commented:

This booklet contains data and analysis of the European rail sector’s performance. It charts the primary role that rail has in sustainable development and clearly illustrates the unrivalled efficiency of the European rail system. In his message to the July 2015 UIC General Assembly, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban-ki Moon emphasised the importance of reporting data in an open and transparent manner. In response to this we are proud to present the highest quality data, provided by the European rail operating community and collected using the UIC Environmental Strategy Monitoring System.

CER Executive Director Libor Lochman said:

Rail contributes to reducing the transport users’ environmental burden on society with its exceptionally low total external costs. However, very limited progress has been made at EU level in addressing internalisation of external costs across all transport modes. CER looks forward to the Road Package for measures towards full and mandatory internalisation of external costs for road as for rail transport as advocated by the 2011 Transport White Paper.

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