The advantages of rail transport
07.21.2021

With its environmental, social and economic advantages, rail is a fitting response to the challenges of mass passenger and freight mobility. It plays a major role in the decarbonisation of the economy and thus contributes to the preservation of the planet.

Rail is greener. Preferring rail transport means contributing to climate neutrality by 2050, together with the European Union.

Less CO2. In France, almost 80% of trains run on electric traction. As our country’s electricity mix (the combination of primary energies used to produce electricity) is low in carbon, rail transport emits much less CO2 than equivalent road or air journeys.

Of the 31% of transport-related emissions, less than 1% are due to rail, while only 10% of passengers and goods are transported by train.


Less air pollution. The railways pollute the air less than other modes of transport. In France, with a rate of only 3.2% of fine particle emissions and 1.9% of nitrogen oxide emissions, rail is the cleanest solution, far ahead of road transport, which alone is responsible for almost 90% of transport-related air pollution.


Steady progress. In recent years, rail has steadily reduced its greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, while increasingly using renewable energy sources. The recent developments of the battery-powered train, the hybrid train and the hydrogen train contribute to further decarbonising rail transport. These alternatives lead to necessary adaptations of the rail network.

Strong link in multimodal transport. By connecting regional and international centres by transferring between different modes of transport, rail plays a key role in end-to-end sustainable mobility.

Rail is safer. Trains make it possible to offer a very high level of safety when carrying passengers and goods. In fact, it is the safest mode of land transport.


Rail is a vehicle for development. Rail promotes socio-economic and territorial cohesion within the European Union by ensuring connectivity between regions and countries. This strengthens the contribution of rail to the economy, industry, trade and society and opens up a wealth of opportunities. The implementation of cross-border technological, legislative and investment projects is already having an undeniable impact on bringing Member States and their citizens together.

European Rail Traffic Management System, Europe’s major rail project.

The European Commission is helping to finance a rail signalling harmonisation project carried out by SNCF Réseau for the benefit of its customers and partners: the installation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) on board 252 passenger trains and freight locomotives. Once implemented throughout the European Union, ERTMS will enable smooth transport from one country to another, with more regular, frequent and safe traffic.


Rail is suited to new mobility. From local to long-distance travel, rail has a significant impact on the choices many passengers make regarding their accommodation, employment or holiday destination. Perfectly suited to mass transport, particularly in large cities, trains make it possible to optimise the location of production activities to ensure a better match between the supply of mobility and employment areas.

Its European dimension contributes to the development of sustainable tourism and promotes access to the cultural and heritage wealth of the territories.

The full version of the report is available here.


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