Tuesday 17 November 2015
Sustainable Development

2015 Edition of the UIC-IEA Railway Handbook on Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions published

Focus on vehicle efficiency

Share this article

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and UIC have officially launched the new edition of the UIC-IEA Railway Handbook on Energy Consumption & CO2 Emissions. 2015 marks the fourth year of collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to produce the Handbook on Energy Consumption and CO2 emissions of the world railway sector. Following the previous editions, UIC and IEA have been increasingly encouraged to pursue this joint effort in close cooperation.

The book contains data and analysis of the rail sector’s performance. It illustrates the efficiency in terms of the rail system’s energy and carbon performance. This data and analysis are independently verified by the IEA.

This publication facilitates analysis that is vital to the proper decision making process. Previous editions were recognised as a reference document by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. These data provide an answer to understanding environmental issues and propose solutions for the decarbonisation strategies of the transport sector.

The global demand for transport is expected to double by 2050. The ability to meet this growing demand in a sustainable way is of fundamental importance in this historical moment.

The special focus on vehicle efficiency in this handbook (and related KPIs) delivers a clear message to the audience: to meet this growing demand by increasing investments on new and efficient rolling stock and technical improvements to the existing fleet will produce important improvements both in transport efficiency and environmental impact.

Some key facts of the 2015 edition:

  • The transport sector was responsible for 23.1% of global CO2 emissions in 2012. 3.6% of transport emissions were due to the rail sector, while railways transported over 8% of the world’s passengers and goods. The relative contribution of rail to global CO2 emissions has decreased since 1990 while total CO2 emissions have risen by almost 50%.
  • Electric intensity for passenger rail vehicles at global level, measured in MJ/train-km, has consistently improved from 1975 to 2012 by -32%, while the electric intensity for freight rail vehicles has improved by -23%. This improvement is particularly significant for electric vehicles in China and diesel vehicles in North America.
  • The railway sector has implemented several technological solutions that will facilitate the energy efficiency of rolling stock in the next decades: installing energy meters, energy recovery from braking, DAS (Driving Advisory System).
  • Railway specific energy consumption has been following a downward trajectory since 1975, both for passenger and freight services. From 1975 to 2012, the energy use per passenger-km declined by 62%. In the same time span, the amount of energy needed to move one tonne-km fell by 46%. In 2012, both indicators reached about 150 KJ per passenger-km (for passenger transport) or per tonne-km (for freight transport).
  • Specific CO2 emissions in the rail sector have been following a similar rate of improvement to specific energy consumption, resulting in CO2 intensity close to 16 g CO2 per passenger-km in the case of passenger transport and per tonne-km in the case of freight transport.

This is just some of the key information provided in the Handbook that emphasises the decisive role of the rail sector in meeting global climate and economic challenges.

Again, this publication has only been possible thanks to the support of UIC members and their annual contributions to UIC Statistics and to the Environmental Strategy Reporting System (ESRS) of UIC. The UIC Sustainable Development Unit would like to thank UIC members and hopes that this new edition can provide valuable information with sound science.

The UIC-IEA Railway Handbook on Energy Consumption & CO2 Emissions is available at:


For further information please contact Gabriel Castañares Hernández, UIC Senior Advisor on Energy and CO2: castanares@uic.org

5 Votes

Average rating: 4.4 / 5