The environmental cost of transport
(including congestion costs) is generally estimated to be 10% of
GDP, of which road transport makes up 90%. Road transport is moreover
responsible for almost 80% of CO2 emissions generated by transport.
All of which shows the train to be one of the least polluting modes
But there is one small reservation. As the European
Environment Agency notes: 'the energy efficiency of rail transport
has changed little over the past two decades, suggesting that, even
in the rail sector, additional energy-saving measures must be envisaged.'
The Commission, therefore, is going to consult with the rail industries
to determine the best way of reducing air pollution linked to rail
transport ( in the same spirit of co-operation as with the automobile
industry under the Auto-Oil programme.
German railways (Deutsche Bahn) have announced a 1% reduction in
primary energy consumption for 2000, for electric and diesel traction,
as part of an energy-saving programme which runs to 2005. Over the
past ten years, there has already been a 19% saving in the freight
sector and 15% in regional transport.
In France, progress in traffic and line management
and the easing of bottlenecks should help reduce energy consumption
by between 6% and 8% by 2020.
Research is also under way to adapt new fuels
for the rail sector, including electric traction, gas and even fuel
cells. The hydrogen-powered train is not for the immediate future,
however. The fuel cells developed to date are in a power range suitable
for motor vehicles, buses and perhaps light rail (urban or peri-urban
transport). Alstom is working on a project for a fuel cell bus for
the RATP, the results of which could be applied to rail by 2007.
But, as for all means of transport, the fuel cell poses problems
of hydrogen storage, on-board energy management, safety and cost
(currently estimated at €2 300 per kW).
Silence on the line
environmentally-friendly, trains are nevertheless noisy and quieter
models must be developed if, for example, freight traffic is to
be increased by operating more night trains. This noise nuisance
is mainly caused by the contact of the wheel against the rails.
Consequently, some research projects are trying to modify the wheel
profile, making it S-shaped rather than flat, to absorb the vibrations.
Other avenues are also being explored. The SNCF has achieved a noise
reduction of 7dB(A) on a locomotive prototype equipped with composition
brake blocks, and a new exhaust system and fairings. The Italian
railways have experimented with wheel fairings and absorbent materials
on their ETR 500 high-speed tilting train, achieving a 4dB(A) noise
reduction. These materials must now be shown to comply with safety
Many European projects, coordinated by the European
Rail Research Institute (ERRI), based in the Netherlands, are also
looking at the question of noise measurement and sound control by
working on the rail as well as the rolling stock. The Silent Freight
project, for example, has developed a number of technical solutions
(smaller or perforated wheels, sound dampers, fairings) to reduce
the noise of freight cars while keeping production costs to an acceptable
level. It has enabled new products to be developed which limit noise
to 10 dB (a 50% reduction) when combined with the solutions proposed
by the Silent Track project, its counterpart in terms of infrastructure.
By studying the noise made by brakes, the Eurosabot
project has provided a better understanding of how their action
creates irregularities on the rail surface, in particular by heating.
But the researchers have not been able to find materials to replace
the cast-iron brake blocks while providing the same braking quality.
The Stairrs project is currently trying to provide
a synthesis of these various research results to arrive at the most
appropriate solutions from an environmental point of view, as well
as technical feasibility and costs. The results are expected by
the end of the year.
three days for sustainable transport
A major conference entitled Surface
Transport Technologies for Sustainable Development,
organised by the Commission, was held in Valence from
4 to 6 June. It was attended by the major stakeholders
in road, rail and sea transport to study prospects for
sustainable development in the field of mobility. Respect
for the environment, safety and European competitiveness
were at the centre of the debates.
Transporting 1 000 tonnes of goods
over one kilometre costs, in terms of pollution, €3.8
by rail compared with €7.85 by road.
A train consumes an average if 8.9
grams of fuel per tonne-kilometre, compared with 31.3
grams by road.
A high-speed train consumes 2.5 litres
of fuel for 100 passenger-kilometres, compared with
5.9 litres by a car.
To transport 100 passengers 1 km,
a TGV emits 4.2 kg of CO2, compared with 14.1 for a
motor vehicle and 17.1 for an aircraft.
A freight train with 30 wagons relieves
congestion by taking 60 lorries off the road (and the
pollution they cause).
In 1999, the railways emitted 7.7
million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (not counting
emissions due to electricity production) compared with
743.3 million tonnes from road transport.