Comparison of energy demand and emissions from road, rail and waterway transport in long-distance freight transport.
Rail and waterway are commonly considered a better environmental performer in the carriage of goods than road. But the validity of such general statements is limited as a new study of PE INTERNATIONAL shows. It depends on the respective individual case.
In comparative studies, rail shows better GHG emissions than road by a factor of two to five. However, these studies raise questions regarding the chosen assumptions and boundary conditions.
The study “comparison of energy demand and emissions from road, rail and waterway transport in long-distance freight transport” commissioned by the German Association of Automotive Industry (VDA) looks upon the ecological impacts and the specific advantages of each mode of transport more precisely and differentiated in representative cases. The results indicate in which individual cases road, rail or inland waterway tend to be the most adequate means of transport.
Container transports as an example: When considering long block trains (>20 loaded wagons), rail shows lower GHG emissions than road. If, for production-related reasons (just-in-sequence), shorter trains (<10 loaded wagons) are required, then road performs better than rail. When considering the proportion of empty wagons and the pre-carriage and on-carriage routes of the train the results shift in favour of the road.
“The detailed studies show that no mode of transport can be designated per se as the best environmental solution in the goods transport sector. For this the individual case has to bee considered, if we want to take seriously the challenges of the climate change and want to select the most climate friendly option for each transport task”, Dr. Michael Faltenbacher und Dr. Michael Spielmann, project manager at PE INTERNATIONAL and authors of the study, pointed out.