Network for Transport Measures

Rail cargo transport baselines 2020

Default and benchmark transport data > Wikis > Rail cargo transport baselines 2020

These baselines are based on data available in NTMCalc 4.0, literature reviews and expert interviews. The settings aim to reflect on general rail transport. In general we recommend use of real data if available at sufficient quality. NTM default data are conservatively assessed and should if used thereby not enable low emission calculations. Furthermore they should promote transport suppliers to present their real data in relation to NTM default data, hence being used in the transport service procurement process.

Rail transport is carried out by electric and diesel trains. The share of electrified rail tracks varies between countries and regions.

The main advantage by rail transport is its energy efficiency due to low rolling resistance and high capacity.

Rail by diesel and electricity has roughly equal performance in a well to wheel perspective. This is due to the fact that average EU28 electricity mix consists of a considerable amount of production based on coal, oil and natural gas. For individual countries this varies significantly. According to IEA this varies and could be close to zero (8.4 g/kWh – 12 g/kWh) to over 1000 g/kWh. This area is likely to be further developed as definition of relevant system boundary could alter the hydropower data from 8.4 g/kWh to 0.44 or even less. Present hydropower data is based on building and operating the power plant, including decomposition in water basins. Average electric data is set at 400 g/kWh.

The emissions from diesel trains are similar to trucks (internal combustion), however normally relatively lower as it requires less fuel per cargo unit. Due to longer locomotives life cycles than for trucks, air pollutants may however be lower for trucks.

The rail challenge is to utilize its capacity advantage where door to door transport aspects should be included since rail tracks not always reaches pick-up and delivery spots.

The actual load factor is another efficiency challenge, i.e. cargo weight in comparison with total gross weight which is often low due to the tare weight of wagons and cargo carrier unit.

If used for the right type of cargo including rail adapted logistical requirement, rail solutions has a high operational efficiency whereby rail transport normally is a very energy and climate efficient mode of traffic.

In addition to the energy efficiency, electrified rail transport offers zero emissions in the proximity of the trains. In this context it is needed to compare electrified rail (and other electrified solutions) in a well to wheel (wtw) perspective.

The production of electricity derives from several different primary energy sources and processes. Using renewable sources as hydro-, wind- and photovoltaic power normally leads to very low emissions of greenhouse gases. The same is valid for some renewable fuels. If electricity production is based on fossil energy sources as coal, oil and natural gas, the emissions of greenhouse gases is significantly higher. Using nuclear sources adds to complexity in environmental comparison.

The national average electricity is normally used for the assessment of wtw-emissions for electric vehicles. The operator can however procure a specified electric production mix i.e. deviate from the national mix.

Hence default electric rail data may differ substantially depending on various aspects mentioned above.

A major amendment in rail data is a clearer division between conventional cargo train and ntermodal cargo train. The main difference is the use of transport unit equipment’s that decrease cargo weight capacity.


NTMCalc 4.0

Conlogic, USA rail survey


Swedish Transport Administration