5 reasons in favour of rail freight transport

24. 04. 2024

Rail transport is safer and more resource-efficient than any other means of transport. However, it is a masterpiece in freight transport: Rail is a true all-rounder and superior to trucks in many respects. In this article, we explain why rail is the way forward for freight transport.

Around ten per cent of all emissions currently come from the transport sector. To meet the constantly growing demand for transport, combat climate change and at the same time improve the quality of life, more transport needs to be shifted to rail. Rail transport has advantages in freight transport. We have summarised these advantages in five arguments.

Sustainability: Rail is the most environmentally friendly means of transport.

Rail is low-emission and efficient. The Rail Cargo Group (RCG) alone saves around one million tonnes of CO2-eq across Austria every year with its freight transport services. Since 2018, all of the green traction current used to power the wagons in Austria is coming from renewable sources - mainly hydropower, wind power and photovoltaics. The RCG even offers transport services whose upstream emissions are offset by climate protection projects and therefore have a negligible ecological footprint. Due to the lower rolling resistance of wheels and rails, the railway is six times more energy-efficient than a lorry.

Quality of life: the railway lets traffic-plagued regions breathe a sigh of relief.

Traffic jams not only cost time, but also cause unnecessary emissions and noise. Particularly on the Brenner axis, the railway helps to relieve traffic congestion. Thanks to the ROLA (Rolling Road), lorries also travel by rail in these zones by being loaded onto articulated lorries for part of the journey. Less road traffic means less noise and better air for the region's residents. And as noise can even be hazardous to health, we also equip our trains with "quiet soles". This new braking system keeps the running surfaces smoother and reduces rolling noise.

Space consumption: Maximum efficiency requires minimum space.

Transport is one of the biggest "space guzzlers", as roads and car parks take up more space every day. Measured in terms of transport performance, land consumption by rail is much lower than by road transport. This is an effective way of combating the growing urbanisation of our landscapes and preserving more space for nature and people.

Efficiency: The railway also masters difficult transport tasks.

Whether steel girders or tree trunks: the railway has the edge when it comes to transporting large and heavy consignments over long distances. Goods can often be split into several wagons and transported in a block train. In general, however, transport by rail is also faster than by ship, cheaper than by plane and more environmentally friendly than both together. As traffic disruptions such as traffic jams and accidents are hardly an issue on the railway, rail freight transport is also less prone to disruption and reaches its destination more reliably.

Costs and safety: fewer external costs for society

Environmentally friendly and safe rail transport causes six times fewer external costs compared to road transport. These are consequential costs that are caused by transport but must be borne by society as a whole – for example through investments in noise protection, accident costs or costs due to environmental pollution and climate change. These costs even fall ninefold if pre- and onward carriage by rail are included. In some cases, these sums will only be incurred by future generations. Particularly dangerous goods such as highly flammable liquids or gases are also safer when travelling by rail. More freight transport by rail therefore benefits us all.