10.                 Rail passenger transport

This sector includes passenger trains, but not freight transport. Rail passenger transport has one of the lowest emission intensities per passenger kilometer. With an increasing amount of electric trains and an increasing amount of renewable energy share in the power generation sector, this mode of transport will continue to be an important option to reduce emissions from the transport sector.

10.1. Activity level

In 2010, 2.6 trillion revenue passenger kilometers were traveled by rail. This number is expected to increase to 9.2 trillion revenue passenger kilometers in 2050, an increase of 254 percent. The increase in world population and shift of travel and transport to more efficient modes drive the growth in rail revenue passenger kilometers.

10.2. Emission reduction potential

CO2 emissions from rail passenger transport are expected to increase from 19 Mt in 2010 to 23 Mt in 2050, an increase of about 21 percent. Despite the increase in emissions, the direct emissions remain around 1 percent of the total transport sector.

10.3. Carbon intensity pathway

Due to the large increase in activity compared to the increase in emissions, the carbon intensity of scope 1 emissions is expected to decrease 65 percent by 2050 compared with 2010.


The carbon intensity pathway in Figure I.10 only covers scope 1 emissions. However, since rail transport almost exclusively uses electricity, the rail passenger transport sector also has a high reduction potential in scope 2 emissions as the share of renewable energy in electricity generation increases. Taking the 2oC decarbonization pathway of the power sector into account, the carbon intensity of scope 1 and 2 combined is expected to decrease from 21.27 gCO2/passenger km to 3.07 gCO2/passenger km, a decrease of around 86 percent.       



Figure I.10 Rail passenger transport activity will grow, but carbon intensity is expected to decline by 65 percent

Source: based on IEA (2014).