Railways 101

Rail is Green Transportation

With its exceptional fuel economy and longstanding commitment to reducing emissions, rail is one of Canada’s greenest transportation modes. Environmental stewardship is a priority for the industry, and our railways are making significant changes to how they operate, as well as ongoing investments in new technologies, to reduce their environmental footprint.

Each year, Canada’s railways move over 100 million passengers and 70 per cent of all intercity freight, while producing just 1 per cent of our country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Moving People and Goods While Doing Good

Each year, Canada’s railways move over 100 million passengers and 70 per cent of all intercity freight, while producing just 3.5 per cent of our country’s transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Trains, on average, are three to four times more fuel-efficient than trucks. Just one locomotive can haul a tonne of goods more than 210 kilometres on a single litre of fuel, while removing upwards of 300 trucks from our congested roads in the process. Similarly, each passenger train replaces dozens of cars, reducing emissions and improving transit time for passengers.

On Track to Help Canada Reduce Emissions

Freight and passenger railways can play a vital role in helping Canada to meet its international environmental commitments. Shifting just 15 per cent of freight from trucks to rail, for example, would reduce GHG emissions by close to 6.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Check out RAC’s Rail Freight Greenhouse Gas Calculator to learn more.

And our railways are continuously working to be even more sustainable. RAC and its members signed a memorandum of understanding with Transport Canada and Environment Canada in 1995, aimed at reducing locomotive emissions. As a result of that agreement, the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) Program was started and continues to provide a platform for railways to manage GHGs and criteria air contaminants. Read the latest LEM report here.

Since 1990, Canada’s freight railways have reduced their GHG emissions intensity – the rail sector’s carbon footprint relative to its traffic – by 44.6 per cent, even with traffic increasing by 95.2 per cent during the same period.

Canadian railways continue to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure and have purchased new, more fuel-efficient, locomotives to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. They are committed to creating a transportation system that enhances the movement of goods and passengers, continually strengthens Canada’s economic wellbeing and competitiveness, and does so as sustainably as possible.