Global transport emissions could peak in the 2030s if railways are “aggressively” expanded, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Feb 16.2019

Rail Transport  is also the most energy-efficient means of motorised passenger transport, and is far more efficient than road freight and aviation, as the chart above shows.

Author Jocelyn Timperley

Rail is among the most efficient and lowest emitting modes of transport, according to the IEA’s new report focusing on the opportunities it offers for energy and the environment.

In particular, urban and high-speed rail hold “major promise to unlock substantial benefits”, the report says, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, congestion and air pollution.

In a foreword to the report, Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, argues rail transport is “often neglected” in public debates about future transport systems. “Despite the advent of cars and airplanes, rail of all types has continued to evolve and thrive,” he says.

Carbon Brief takes a look at eight key charts from the report showing the status of rail in the world today – and how it could reduce emissions in future.

Energy-efficient rail

Rail transport is the most electrified transport sector, the IEA says. Globally, three-quarters of rail passenger movements and half of rail freight relies on electricity.

This means it is “uniquely positioned” to take advantage of the rise of renewables in the electricity mix.