There are plenty of ways to move people and freight around Europe but, when it comes to sustainability, security, productivity, and job creation, rail has some advantages that other options can’t match.
1. Rail emits lower carbon emissions than competing transport options.
Walking or bike-sharing schemes might work well in city environments but they are far from ideal for a longer trip. In Europe it’s easy to drive, fly, travel on rivers or travel by train between cities and rail passenger transport is well ahead when it comes to minimizing the impact on climate change. At only 40 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer, rail travel has less than half the emissions of road transport, and less again than the highest emitting option, air. Even the relatively low-emitting river-based passenger transport emits more CO2 per passenger kilometer than rail. For anyone truly committed to a sustainable environmental future, passenger rail transport is the cleanest, greenest option.
2. Rail transport means fewer external costs for everyone
The costs of any transport network go beyond the price of a ticket or freight forwarding for customers or the costs of investment and maintenance for operators. Additional costs to the community and the environment can also be significant including noise, accidents and disruptions to other transport networks, air pollution, carbon emissions, and impacts on upstream and downstream businesses. Add them all up and rail is ahead – a long way ahead – of competing transport options. When it comes to moving passengers, a car adds approximately €64 in external costs per 1000km or travel, an aircraft €58, and a bus €33. A train, on the other hand, adds only €15 in external costs. It’s a similar story when it comes to moving freight: light trucks add more than €145 in external costs per 1000km, heavy trucks €34, and river barges €11. Rail freight? Less than €8 per 1000km.
3. Rail transport is one of the safest forms of mass passenger transport.
This might have you shaking your head as you recall seeing something about a train accident on the television news or in a morning newspaper. Can rail transport really be safe? Indeed, it can be and, with the exception of air transport, it is the safest form of mass transport in Europe. A passenger on a bus is about 50% more likely to be killed in an accident than a passenger on a train, while a driver or passenger in a car is more than 24 times more likely to suffer a fatal injury than a rail passenger. Despite its popularity, a two-wheeled vehicle like a scooter or a motorcycle is an incredible 375 times more likely to suffer a fatal injury than a train passenger. Truly, when it comes to moving passengers safely and securely, rail transport is among the safest of bets.
4. Investing in rail creates jobs and adds value.
A recent survey revealed that the European rail industry directly employs 1.06 million people, but another 1.21 million people indirectly. Every job created in the rail industry is responsible for creating more than 1 new job outside of the rail industry, including in areas like finance, manufacturing, food services, advertising, and the building and construction industries. What’s more, while the rail industry contributes an estimated €66 billion in added value each year, the jobs created by rail transport outside of the industry add an additional €77 billion each year. Investing in rail services, rail infrastructure, and passenger and freight networks delivers not only employment outcomes for job seekers in Europe but also more than a hundred and thirty billion in added value annually.
5. The European rail industry is super-productive and a clear global leader.
While it’s true that there was a time that the rail industry was less productive than other large industries in Europe, those days are gone. Today the rail industry outpaces the economy at large in terms of productivity and has done so since at least 2012. What’s more, this productive and innovative sector has established itself in a position of global leadership with a 20% share of the world market for rail infrastructure and services. Nearly €30 billion each year is generated through the export of European-made railway supplies, trains, and know-how, and with between 4 and 10% of revenues being plowed back into research and development programs, it’s a position that industry leaders can maintain with appropriate support from national and international actors.