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Technology investments by Canada’s railways leading way to net-zero future

Ottawa, November 3, 2022 – Pioneering investments by Canadian railways in fleet renewal, fuel-saving technologies, employee training and low-carbon fuels are driving emissions reductions in the rail sector. 

The Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) report, released today by the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), provides an overview of 2020 rail performance, including:  

  • Freight and passenger rail traffic 
  • Fuel consumption 
  • Locomotive fleet inventory, and  
  • GHG and Criteria Air Contaminant (CAC) emissions data. 

In 2020, despite the various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian railways invested $2.6 billion into new technologies and network improvements. The freight railway sector showed its resilience, effectively managing the uncertainty and volatility presented by the pandemic.  

On the passenger side, despite a significant decrease in ridership in 2020, passenger railways maintained essential services.


  • In the first three years (2018-2020), of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the federal government, Class 1 railways achieved 80.6% of their emissions intensity reduction target. 
  • Since 2005, freight railways’ emissions intensity has improved by 25.1%. 
  • Since 2005, despite an increase in rail traffic, Canadian railways’ CAC emissions have decreased considerably: carbon monoxide (-5.2%), nitrogen oxides (-44.1%), hydrocarbons (-51.1%), particulate matter (-58.3%), and sulphur dioxide (-99.0%). 
  • In 2020, Canadian railways modernized their fleets by adding 46 Tier 4 locomotives and retiring 149 mostly lower-tiered and non-tiered locomotives. (Higher-tiered locomotives meet more stringent emission requirements.) 
  • 3,109 locomotives (82.8% of the total fleet) were equipped with an anti-idling device. 


“This report makes clear that Canada’s railways are fully committed to reducing their emissions intensity and are making impressive progress,” says Marc Brazeau, President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. “Rail is already the greenest way of moving goods and people over land, and our railways are playing a key role in helping Canada meet its international climate commitments and the overall commitment of net-zero by 2050.”  

“Our government is committed to achieving our climate goals, especially in the transportation sector. As one of the cleanest and most efficient modes of transportation, rail is a key part of our plan to build a cleaner economy that works for everyone.” Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra.

The 2020 report is the third report released under the 2018-2022 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and Transport Canada. The full LEM report is available here 

About the Railway Association of Canada 

The RAC represents nearly 60 freight and passenger railway companies that transport tens of millions of passengers and approximately $320 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable and, most importantly, safe. Learn more at www.railcan.ca. 

Data Contact:
Jonathan Thibault

Media Contact:
Chris Day