Rail sector hauls 28% more freight using less fuelCanada's freight railways hauled 28% more freight in 2002 than they did in 1990 and did the job using less fuel, resulting in lower emissions of critical air pollutants. The improvement in the rail industry's environmental track record comes from working smarter and using smarter technology, said Bill Rowat, president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), which represents 60 freight and passenger railways.
The industry's performance is documented in the latest Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) report for 2002, published as part of a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 1995 by the RAC and Environment Canada. The MOU, which expires in 2005, is currently being renegotiated by the two parties.
Rail carried 582 billion gross tonne kilometres (GTK) of freight in 2002 - some two-thirds of the domestic and international freight volume moved in Canada, as well as 53.5 million passengers. This represents an increase in freight traffic of 27.9% from 455 billion GTK in 1990, the base reporting year. Similarly, revenue tonne kilometres (RTK) increased from 250 billion in 1990 to 321 billion in 2002, an increase of 28.2%. The annual growth in traffic has been roughly 2.2% per year, considerably higher than the annual increases of 1.2% in GTK and 1.5% in RTK forecast when the 1995 MOU was signed.
At the same time, however, total rail fuel consumption decreased from 2,061 million litres in 1990 to 2,051 million litres in 2002, an overall drop of 0.5%. Reduced fuel use relative to the substantial increase in traffic clearly shows the effectiveness of fuel conservation practices implemented by the railways.
"The railways, by reducing their emissions and steadily improving their overall fuel efficiency, help Canadian industries remain competitive, and improve Canadians' quality of life," Rowat observed.
The improvements have come from the purchase of more fuel-efficient modern locomotives, and the application of new technology. Low idle features on more main line locomotives and automatic start/stop systems for switching engines help conserve fuel and reduce emissions from older equipment. As well, there have been changes in railway operating practices, such as improved equipment scheduling and higher asset utilization.
The LEM program gathers data on the rail industry's emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbons and particulate matter. In 2002, total rail NOX (in kilotonnes (kt) per 1,000 RTK) were 17.1% below 1990 levels, declining from 0.43 to 0.36 kt/1,000 RTK. NOX emissions totalled 120.2 kt, an increase from 118.4 kt in 2001 and still above the voluntary cap of 115 kt.
CO2 emissions, also measured in kt/1,000 RTK, declined 23.2% between 1990 and 2002, from 21.2 to 16.3 kt/1,000 RTK. Total CO2 emissions for the rail sector were 5,548 kt in 2002, up from 5,462 kt in 2001; these emissions, however, have decreased by 7.4% since the peak year 1997 and by 0.6% since 1990.