India to witness seven-fold rise in rail ridership: IEA

India to witness seven-fold rise in rail ridership: IEA

Rail is one of the most energy efficient transport modes and stepping up investment in rail infrastructure could substantially reduce transport sector carbon emissions and energy consumption, says a report published by the International Energy Agency.  

The report ‘The Future of Rail’, prepared in cooperation with the International Union of Railways (UIC), notes that rail is responsible for 8 per cent of global passenger transport and 7 per cent of freight transport but represents only 2 per cent of total transport energy demand. The report states that the strongest growth is in India and southeast Asia, where there will be an almost seven-fold increase in ridership. China will see a three-fold increase with a 25 per cent rise in Japan and 45 per cent in the European Union (EU).

It highlights massive growth on India’s main line network, where construction of new infrastructure will support “volumes of passenger activity that, by 2050, are unparalleled anywhere in the world.” India is expected to account for 40 per cent of global passenger rail journeys by 2050.

Rail consumes less than 600,000 barrels of oil per day representing around 0.6 per cent of global oil use, and around 290 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, around 1 per cent of global demand. Fossil fuel combustion from rail operations accounts for around 0.3 per cent of the global total.

“The rail sector can provide substantial benefits for the energy sector as well as for the environment,” says IEA executive director, Dr Fatih Birol. “By diversifying energy sources and providing more efficient mobility, rail can lower transport energy use and reduce carbon dioxide and local pollutant emissions.” Under the base scenario considered in the report, global annual investment in rail infrastructure will reach $US 315bn in 2050 based on projects already planned or under construction.

In this scenario, the rate of infrastructure expansion is fastest in the urban rail sector. The report notes that the total global length of metro lines under construction or planned for the next five years is double the length of any five-year period between 1970 and 2015. As a result, passenger numbers on the world’s urban networks are projected to be 2.7 times higher in 2050 than they are today.

In the high-speed sector, China will account for nearly half of new line construction over the next 30 years. Correspondingly, passenger numbers on the Chinese high-speed network will triple by 2050, rising 85 per cent in Japan and 66 per cent in the EU. Rail electricity use is forecast to reach nearly 700TWh by 2050 and 97 per cent of passenger rail movements and two-thirds of freight movements will be on electrified lines.

However, despite the projected growth, the report finds that rail’s share of the passenger transport market will remain static relative to road and air transport.