Global warming is one of the leading topics of concern in the world today. Transportation in different forms play a role in the fight against climate change: by reducing carbon emissions, noise pollution and waste products.
Below is all you need to know about traveling by train and its impact on the environment:
Benefits of Train Transportation
Other than being more environmentally friendly, rail transport comes with several advantages.
Rail travel tends to be/have:
- Cost-Effective – with a reduction of transportation by around 10 – 40% rail is an affordable means of transporting large goods. It comes with less fuel and other associated costs.
- Reliable – trains operate on Standardized schedules and operate on well-regulated routes. It also comes with multi-modal booking platforms like Omio which promotes train travel in Europe.
- Unlimited freight capacity – unlike road transport where you can only load limited goods per truck, rail comes with enough space for vast amounts of products.
- Efficient – even though rarely associated with fast movements, trains are quick enough to transport any goods.
Trains Impact on Environment compared to other means of Transport
Choosing the ideal means of transportation depends on the distance and the accessibility of the said means. If it were to be on the environmental front though, commuters would opt to walk or cycle. These produce zero carbon emissions to the environment. Well, nobody would ever tour the world or reach destinations with such speeds. That is why trains, cars and flights are significant transportation means even with the carbon emissions and impacts on the environment.
Compared to road and air transport, rail transport is one of the top environmental conservatives with carbon emissions of 0.04kg CO2/km. Planes, on the other hand, produce up to 88 grams CO2 per kilometre per passenger. Pollution caused by short and long-haul flights is still on the rise.
Even though, advancements are rife with prospects of electric cars and rails seeking to make the transportation modes more environmentally efficient. The significant concern, therefore, remains on air transportation.
The Impact of Trains on the Environment
Even though railways transport in the UK generally emits less energy, it comes with its effects on the environment. Railway transport is characterized by the emission of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. It also emits other solid matter which negatively affects the environment.
To reduce the effects on the environment, train transportation has undergone massive improvements in recent times. Some of the ways through which the railway transport improves environmental care include:
- Low carbon emissions
Railway transport is one of the least carbon-emitting systems in the UK. A study by Rail Industry Decarbonization Task Force and RSSB established that rail is responsible for only 2.5% of carbon emissions of the total emissions from the transport industry. The whole industry is responsible for 0.6% of the total carbon emissions in the UK.
With the plans to reduce the figures of carbon emissions by rail to 0% by 2050, the system is set to be more environmentally healthy. The government is set to put in place the frameworks, structures and policies for better carbon emissions. One of the ways for improving the carbon emission is by encouraging research and investments in the industry.
- Improved freight rail
Freight rail is one of the most environmentally friendly means of moving freight in the UK. It comes with the least carbon emissions, fuel efficiency and limited greenhouse gas emissions. Road uses 1 gallon of oil to transport a tonne of goods over 88 miles. As opposed to rail which uses the same gallon for 246 miles.
One of the primary reasons for the improved efficiency is the massive adoption of technology in the industry. Freight rail uses technology in almost all areas of operations.
For fuel economy, the systems adopt software that recommends the most fuel-efficient way to operate the machines. It comes with anti-idling technology to avoid wasting fuel and other emissions during low activity. The system works even more efficient with the advanced locomotives with sensors and zero-emission cranes.
The industry seeks to make the situation even better with continuous advancements in freight rails. Experts are looking for ways to reduce the overall weight of cargo and friction between track and wheels. This will reduce the horsepower required to transport cargo.
- Electric trains
Electric trains are another way through which rail transport reduces carbon emissions. Electric trains are responsible for around 20 – 30 per cent fewer carbon emissions compared to diesel trains. Diesel trains are also known to emit more nitrogen dioxide into the environment leading to air pollution.
With all these positive environmental impacts of electric trains to the environment, it came as a surprise when the government stopped funding for major electrical electrification program. It claimed the project is expensive yet comes with slower transformation. The move promoted most environmental activists to seek redress — several signed petitions for the government to reconsider the move.
Ultimately, electric trains will operate on digital signalling and battery. They are also likely to be hydrogen-powered, which goes a long way in improving environmental emissions.
- Embracing the green movement
The railway industry is the leading transportation sector to embrace green energy. Several studies are underway to determine the viability of using solar energy to power trains instead of diesel.
One such study is one by Colas Rail and Network rail; a 97% diesel-free when powering trains using solar lighting. These and other similar projects will increase in the future as the sector becomes more green-oriented.
- Recycling on railway stations
Apart from air and noise pollution, railway transport is also responsible for solid wastes. This is from users who throw dirt and waste.
To reduce the wastes, most trains services are reducing or cutting out the supply of plastic cups and cutlery in the stations. The stations are calling for the recycling of coffee cups and other coffee ground recycling mechanisms.
The train is the best option when you are looking for a fast, reliable and environmentally friendly means of transport. It comes with several benefits, with more improvements set to follow in the future.