Carbon Footprint and Sustainability

The UIC report, “Carbon Footprint of Rail infrastructure” analyses the main existing reports and methodologies in the field and provides guidelines, recommendations and best practices for the calculation of the carbon content of all the phases of the rail services including the infrastructure construction.

The report compares, qualitatively in a first step, ten existing reports and literature to gauge how each methodology can be compared and used for other purposes, in terms of calculation approaches, boundaries, standardization, applicability, etc.

Following such in-depth review of the existing previous reports and methodologies, the second phase of the study quantitatively calculates the effect of the methodology on the results. Three typical corridors representative of three railway most relevant type of traffics (high-speed, sub-urban and freight) have been selected. The three selected examples come from different geographical countries and contexts, such as a sub-urban line in The Netherlands, a high-speed corridor in Japan and freight services in Sweden.

For each corridor, the most relevant methodologies have been applied to quantify the carbon footprint of everyone, explaining the different results among the methodologies and analysing the methodology most suitable to be implemented in different cases and scenarios.

After performing the analysis, the IFEU study of 2010 appears as the most accurate, transparent and transposable methodology to be used for most corridors giving accurate and reliable results with a reasonable amount of data needed.

The report “High-Speed Rail and Sustainability” and the accompanying background “Carbon Footprint of High-Speed Rail Lines” commissioned by UIC, which take four case studies of high-speed rail lines (two in Europe and two in Asia) and carries out a transparent, robust assessment of carbon emissions for each route, including the planning, construction (track and rolling stocks) and operation phases is identified as one of the most robust methodologies for double electrified, high-speed lines.

The report “Carbon Footprint of Rail Infrastructure” also calculates the payback time required to compensate the CO2 emissions due to the rail infrastructure construction, thanks to the modal shift from more carbon-intensive competitor modes (road or planes). For all three cases studies, the payback time is much shorter than the average lifetime of the infrastructure.

Building new rail infrastructure saves CO2 after one to three decades depending on traffic as a key factor for a rapid payback, so accurate traffic estimations must be performed during the planning phase of a new railway infrastructure to know the payback of the construction in terms of carbon footprint.

Please find these reports on