We’re all thinking about travel, let’s be honest. Not only was 2020 and the pandemic a year (and then some!) with limited options and even fewer opportunities to explore new locations, but it was a time when seeing family, friends and familiar faces was extremely few and far between.
Safety was at the forefront, efficiency was top of mind, and economics took a front seat during difficult moments. While we don’t know what the future will hold, we do know that rail travel is here to stay. We anticipate that it’s going to become even more popular as the energy-efficiency of this mode of transportation becomes more widely recognized, and that’s incredible news for us and for you. Since you’re reading this, you’re already more in-the-know, and you’ll be far ahead of the crowds behind you. So, let’s understand just how energy efficient railroad travel is.
According to studies, about 29 percent of U.S. emissions are correlated to transportation, and that’s only been rising in recent years. The only outlier of this fact is 2020, however, with the United States seeing a 10.7 percent reduction while other countries saw as much as nearly 19 percent drops in emissions. But can this be maintained? With urban-living trending upward and the country backing electric-powered transportation and vehicles, we’d certainly like to think so.
Now, we’re certainly understanding of the fact that old school rail travel is not nearly as efficient with our time as cars or planes, but high-speed rail is a different story. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), rail carries 8 percent of the world’s passengers and 7 percent of freight yet accounts for just 2 percent of transport energy use. Those are numbers that we like to see, and we believe that can only go up from here, too.
Additionally, studies are showing that freight rail also is something to take into consideration when it comes to energy efficiency in addition to mass people-movers. Freight rail accounts for about one-third of the ton-miles and consumes only about two percent of the transportation energy in the U.S, according to theconversation.com. They summarize it like this: “on average, freight railroads move a ton of cargo for around 479 miles on a gallon of fuel, which is about 11 times more energy-efficient than trucks on a ton-mile basis.” Now, that is something we can get behind! With less trucks on the road, we’d also see a decrease in accidents, traffic and so on. Only positive correlations in our eyes on this topic! And, as we transition back to passenger rail, we’re also seeing that the same source claims that it’s around three times more efficient than a car on a passenger-mile basis at current occupancy levels.
High-speed services over long distances seem to relate to eco-friendly alternatives to short-distance air travel with a reduction to emissions. One keen example of a system in place in the States that’s becoming even more effective is Brightline. It’s fueled by biodiesel and meets Tier-4 emissions standards, according to Brightline. This passenger-rail service is located in south-eastern Florida with plans to expand cross-country. Some of its stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach even feature FPL SolarNow trees, structures that provide shade and accumulate solar power. Effective indeed!
If you venture over the pond to the UK, Eurostar claims it has also reduced carbon emissions in the past eight years by 32 percent. Additionally, like our previous statements suggested, a short-term trip from London to Paris emits 90 percent less greenhouse gas than the equivalent flight and less carbon per passenger than a journey from central London to Heathrow.