Intermodal rail freight transport – an efficient strategy to fight climate change
The talk about climate change and global warming has taken center stage in recent years, as the effects of long-term emissions of greenhouse gases have started to have a visible adverse effect on the natural world that surrounds us. The vast majority of greenhouse gases is made up of carbon-dioxide and transportation is responsible for 14% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In EU28 countries this percentage is even higher (19,7%) when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation also accounts for 31% of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in the EU 27 countries. The situation is less than ideal, but the solution may lie in a simple, yet effective strategy: a higher modal share of rail transport. Here’s why:
Rail – a sustainable transport option
Nearly two-thirds (74.5%) of global transport emissions originate from road transport (passenger – 45.1% and freight – 29.4%), whilst rail accounts for merely 1% (including both freight and passenger transport). There are a few key factors that attest to the fact that rail can play an important role in creating a more sustainable approach to transport. Shipping cargo via rail has its undeniable advantages which, in the long run, contributes to environmentally friendly solutions that people and our surroundings can only benefit from.
Decreasing highway congestion
A single locomotive can transport up to 38 wagons of merchandise and up to 3,000 gross tonnage. Such a train can reach the length of 725 meters, without causing any disruptions in normal traffic conditions, except for the railroad crossings that halt regular traffic. If you were to transport the same amount of cargo by road you would need at 75 LHV trucks, or 115 HDV vehicles, which would certainly be responsible for at least a few instances of traffic congestions. Besides the road blocks, just imagine how much more air pollution such a large amount of trucks can cause, when compared to a single locomotive and its wagons.
Fuel and energy efficiency
According to recent statistical data, rail accounts for merely 2% of total EU energy consumption in transport, while it carried 17% of freight and 8% of passengers of all transport modes. The lower energy consumption is mostly due to the train’s physical features, which includes lower rolling and air resistance, along with the low friction of steel wheels running on steel rail.
AAR proclaims railroads are 3-4 times more fuel efficient than trucks, which means that moving cargo via rail instead of road lowers greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%. CER has published data showcasing that rail freight emits merely 16 gCO2/tkm, which is much less than what inland waterways (51gCO2/tkm) and road transportation (140 gCO2/tkm) is responsible for.
A Strategy for 2030 and beyond
The International Railway Association (UIC) and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) has joined forces in creating a guideline entitled “Moving Towards Sustainable Mobility: European Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond” to outline how the rail sector should be performing in environmental terms for a more sustainable future. This joint agreement tackles 4 main issues: climate protection, energy efficiency, exhaust and noise emissions. It also offers easy-to-follow guidelines for rail operators that will help private and state-owned companies make suitable long-term plans.
Short-term plans for 2030 include reducing specific average CO2 emissions by 50% and decreasing specific final energy consumption from train operation by 30% compared to the base year of 1990. Reduction of total exhaust emissions of nitrogen-oxides and particulate matter by 40% in absolute terms is another important goal to achieve by 2030.
By 2050, the partnership aims to strive towards carbon-free train operation, along with halving specific final energy consumption from rail transport. Achieving zero emissions of nitrogen-oxides and particulate matter is another ambitious goal that they’re set to achieve.
Transport your cargo by rail for a more sustainable future
While greenhouse gas emissions are quite a small percentage of total transport emissions, it is extremely important to recognize the long-term effects it has on the environment and to take voluntary action in order to decrease these pollutants as much as possible.
One of our main missions here at MMV Rail Romania is to emphasize environmental sustainability, a goal that governs our every move. Thus, we have already taken a few key steps to ensure a more sustainable approach. We have added modern electric locomotives to our rolling stock to ensure more feasible freight transport options to our clients.
Besides this, one of our long-term plans consists of offering combined intermodal transport services, where we aim to ship cargo belonging to different clients by joining them together and delivering them in the same transport. We aim to relieve road transport by shipping small amounts of merchandise via rail instead of by trucks, which helps decrease road traffic congestions, as well as the environmental impact of the transportation process.