High speed reail streaks ahead in race to cut carbon dioxide emissions

22nd Sep 2009
High speed reail streaks ahead in race to cut carbon dioxide emissions

Short-haul travellers who choose high-speed rail over the plane are already making huge and immediate reductions in their carbon dioxide emissions – simply by switching how they get from A to B.

Eurostar, the provider of carbon neutral, high-speed rail journeys between the UK and mainland Europe,  highlighted (22 September) the value of emissions cuts being made right now, on the day that the aviation industry promised to cuts emissions by 50% by 2050.

Eurostar’s Head of Environment and Energy Louisa Bell said:

“While we welcome this move, there is no better time to remind travellers of the carbon dioxide savings that can be made today, simply by choosing train over plane.

“High-speed rail in the form of Eurostar achieves an immediate 90% cut in journey emissions, based on research which has shown that a Eurostar trip generates just 10% of the CO2 emissions of an equivalent flight. What’s more, as governments pursue policies to decarbonise electricity supplies, the emissions from high-speed rail journeys will only further reduce.


“Whilst the aviation industry has made long-term promises to halve carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, consumers are already making much bigger cuts, simply by choosing to take the train.

“Across Europe, for high-speed journeys of up to four hours, typically more than half the market now prefers rail to air. For shorter trips, the market share of rail is significantly greater.”

Under its Tread Lightly environmental plan launched in April 2007, Eurostar has a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions per traveller journey by 35% by 2012, compared with 2007.

The train operator has already achieved a 31% cut in journey emissions, largely through a switch to lower carbon sources of electricity along its routes, and without using offsetting in order to achieve its target.

Eurostar’s policy is only to use offsetting where emissions cannot yet be eliminated. This is done in order to make all journeys carbon neutral, at no extra cost to passengers.

More widely across Europe, high-speed trains are already enabling travellers to make major reductions in journey emissions compared with the old alternative of flying. And with the size of Europe’s high-speed rail network due to triple in the 15 years to 2020, passengers will be able to travel faster point-to-point by high-speed rail than by plane on nearly half of Europe’s busiest air routes, according to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group*.

It conducted a survey of 13,000 pan-European distance travellers from 13 countries, which found that more than 30 percent would like to switch modes with the proportion in some countries as high as 65 percent.

*Boston Consulting Group: ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’, March 2009


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