Climate Change: the European Rail Industry on the Frontline

by Philippe Citroën, Director General of UNIFE

While greenhouse gas emissions in many sectors decreased significantly between 1990 and 2009, emissions from transport increased 28% during this same period. It is therefore of utmost importance to decarbonize the transport sector.

As a mode with average specific emissions at least three to four times lower than road or air transport, rail plays a crucial role in achieving this ambitious objective. UNIFE’s strategy is to enable the sustainable growth of mobility both in developed and developing countries, with rail as the backbone of an intermodal transport system that ensures that urbanisationgoeshand in hand with sustainable development goals.

Sustainability, particularly as it concerns the environment, has always been considered a key value of the European rail industry. Over the past two decades, the European rail industry has significantly improved the environmental performances of its products, be it on energy efficiency, noise and vibrations or recyclability of materials. Regenerative braking, energy storage or lighter materials are already game changers – and more work is being carried out to mitigate the impact of climate change.

UNIFE and its members are currently engaged in European-levelresearch projects whose results will be translated into more even more energy efficient products (MERLIN, OSIRIS and REFRESCO). Looking to the future, Shift2Rail, a major public-private partnership with a €920 M budget funded by the Horizon 2020 EU Framework programme, will seek to increase rolling stock and infrastructureenergy efficiency, but also to improve the overall record of the system. These gainswill help reduce energy and maintenance costs, making train travel more affordable and thus promoting the modal shift to rail, which, once realised, will be a major step towards reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector.