As demand grows for low-carbon transportation of both people and goods, the rail sector has a chance to see fast growth over the next 10 years due to accelerated green transitions, technological breakthroughs, and increased regulation, according to a study from consulting firm Arthur D. Little.
The next 10 years have the potential to be the ‘Rail Decade’ whether that’s measured through growth in passenger-kilometers (pkm) or tonne-kilometers (tkm) or both, the firm said in a report titled “Rail 2040.”
Citing examples in the European Union (EU), the report found that all European countries have major ambitions to develop rail for freight transport, passenger transport, or both. This is because the general demand for moving passengers and goods is expanding, and rail offers a number of advantages over other forms of transport.
According to the researchers, rail is both more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly than road transport. For example, France’s TGV consumes 3-4 kWh per 100 km against 15-20 kWh for an electric car. And a high-speed rail line also has a transport capacity twice as large as a bidirectional three-lane highway, with lower land consumption.
However, the rail sector has certain shortcomings to address before it can realize that potential. When rail is the most efficient transport offer—such as routes from city center to center with services of under four hours—its market share is often very high. But to gain a stronger modal share, rail must progress in areas where it is less relevant today, such as over very long distances. Reach those goals will require investments such as the building of new high speed lines, the development of longer train services, and the return of night trains.
“While the rail industry’s technological development and growth rates have historically been modest compared to other transport sectors, a combination of emerging trends – including accelerated green transitions, technological breakthroughs, and increased regulation – mean that the next 10 years have the potential to be the ‘Rail Decade’,” Michael Zintel, partner at ADL and Head of Global Rail, said in a release.