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 close to 82 million passengers and 70 per cent of all intercity freight, while producing just one per cent of our country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Moving People and Goods While Doing Good

Each year, Canada’s railways move close to 82 million passengers and 70 per cent of all intercity freight, while producing just one per cent of our country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Trains, on average, are four to five times more fuel-efficient than trucks. Just one locomotive can haul a tonne of goods more than 200 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 hundreds of cars, reducing emissions and improving transit time for commuters.

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 5.6 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.

Since 1990, Canadian freight and passenger railways have reduced their GHG emissions intensity by more than 40 percent. They’ve also curbed their emissions intensity of air pollutants such as nitrous oxides by 60 per cent, despite increased rail traffic during that time.

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.