Skip to content
DOT tab

Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse

Other Modes/ Non-road


Background | Resources


Railways enable high-speed and high-density passenger transport and also transport a large amount of freight in the form of raw materials and goods. Rail transport is one of the most energy efficient modes of transportation available today, and is often considered a strategy to reduce GHG emissions from surface transportation. Opportunities to further reduce rail energy use include reducing aerodynamic drag, reducing train weight, regenerative breaking, and higher efficiency propulsion systems.


Reducing the GHG & Air Quality Impacts of Freight Transportation (Ongoing)
Center for Clean Air Policy
This project focuses on the identification of measures to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from freight by analyzing the rail and marine replacement of truck freight. The analysis will provide information regarding freight contributions to GHG emissions and, given the projected growth in freight movement, will be valuable to state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in implementing strategies to reduce freight-related GHG emissions.
Stock Modeling for Railroad Locomotives and Marine Vessels (2004) (PDF 1.82mb)
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
This report estimates the survival curves for locomotives and marine vessels to analyze the impact that new equipment will have on future energy emissions. This data will serve as a basis for developing stock turnover algorithms that could be incorporated into current or future energy and emissions models.
Use of Biodiesel in Railways and Its Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Land Use (2009)
McDonnell, Simon Thomas; Lin, Jie (Jane)
Policy concern about local and global pollutant emissions from Class 1 rail freight is increasing. However, long-life characteristics of locomotives hinder mitigation opportunities typically available in other sectors. This paper focuses on the potential of soybean-based biodiesel to improve rail freights environmental performance. This paper will investigate differing rates of biodiesel penetration on total and fossil fuel energy consumption in both the well-to-pump and pump-to-wheel cycles estimating the impact on four criteria and three Greenhouse Gas (GHG) pollutants. The latter is of particular interest as the impact of this sector on global climate change has largely been overlooked. In addition, we estimate resultant potential land use impacts. The authors find that carbon dioxide emission reductions are modest and they come at the cost of increased levels of local pollutants. In addition, large-scale biodiesel penetration will likely result in significant land use changes. This suggests policymakers will have to look to other mitigation strategies (i.e. mandating emissions from existing rail operations or facilitating second-generation biodiesel for rail).

Top of page