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Can high speed rail offset its embedded emissions?


  • Westin, Jonas


  • Kågeson, Per



The purpose of this paper is to analyze the climate benefit of investments in high speed rail-way lines given uncertainty in future transport demand, technology and power production. To capture the uncertainty of estimated parameters, distributions for the annual traffic emissions reduction required to compensate for the embedded emissions from the construction of infrastructure are calculated using Monte Carlo simulation. In order to balance the annualized emissions from the railway construction, traffic volumes of more than 10 million annual one-way trips are usually required. Most of the traffic diverted from other modes must come from aviation and the project cannot involve the extensive use of tunnels. In sparsely populated regions it may be, from a climate point of view, better to upgrade existing lines and to try to make people substitute air travel by modern telecommunications, rather than investing large amounts of resources in enabling people to travel faster and more often.

Suggested Citation

  • Westin, Jonas & Kågeson, Per, 2011. "Can high speed rail offset its embedded emissions?," Working papers in Transport Economics 2011:16, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ctswps:2011_016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ginés de Rus, 2008. "The Economic Effects of High Speed Rail Investment," OECD/ITF Joint Transport Research Centre Discussion Papers 2008/16, OECD Publishing.
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    2. Stanis£Aw Brzeziñski & Dariusz Liszewski, 2014. "Development Perspectives Of Passenger Rail Transport In Poland And Chosen European Union Countries," Advanced Logistic systems, University of Miskolc, Department of Material Handling and Logistics, vol. 8(2), pages 5-10, December.
    3. Bueno, Gorka & Hoyos, David & Capellán-Pérez, Iñigo, 2017. "Evaluating the environmental performance of the high speed rail project in the Basque Country, Spain," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 44-56.
    4. Zhang, Anming & Wan, Yulai & Yang, Hangjun, 2019. "Impacts of high-speed rail on airlines, airports and regional economies: A survey of recent research," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 1-19.
    5. D’Alfonso, Tiziana & Jiang, Changmin & Bracaglia, Valentina, 2016. "Air transport and high-speed rail competition: Environmental implications and mitigation strategies," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 261-276.
    6. Tiziana D'Alfonso & Changmin Jiang & Valentina Bracaglia, 2015. "Air transport and high-speed rail competition: environmental implications and mitigation strategies," DIAG Technical Reports 2015-15, Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering, Universita' degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza".
    7. Zhipeng Tang & Ziao Mei & Jialing Zou, 2021. "Does the Opening of High-Speed Railway Lines Reduce the Carbon Intensity of China’s Resource-Based Cities?," Energies, MDPI, vol. 14(15), pages 1-18, July.
    8. Hongchang Li & Jack Strauss & Lihong Liu, 2019. "A Panel Investigation of High-Speed Rail (HSR) and Urban Transport on China’s Carbon Footprint," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(7), pages 1-24, April.
    9. Mohsen Momenitabar & Zhila Dehdari Ebrahimi & Mohammad Arani, 2020. "A Systematic and Analytical Review of the Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of the Deployed High-Speed Rail (HSR) Systems on the World," Papers 2003.04452,, revised Mar 2020.
    10. Grimaldi, Raffaele & Beria, Paolo, 2013. "Open issues in the practice of cost benefit analysis of transport projects," MPRA Paper 53766, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Liang Nie & ZhongXiang Zhang, 2021. "Is high-speed rail green? Evidence from a quasi-natural experiment in China," Working Papers 2021.23, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
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    13. Chester, Mikhail V. & Ryerson, Megan S., 2014. "Grand challenges for high-speed rail environmental assessment in the United States," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 15-26.
    14. Westin, Jonas & de Jong, Gerard & Vierth, Inge & Krüger, Niclas & Karlsson, Rune & Johansson, Magnus, 2015. "Baserunning - analyzing the sensitivity and economies of scale of the Swedish national freight model system using stochastic production-consumption-matrices," Working papers in Transport Economics 2015:10, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI), revised 15 Sep 2016.
    15. Mohsen Momenitabar & Raj Bridgelall & Zhila Dehdari Ebrahimi & Mohammad Arani, 2021. "Literature Review of Socioeconomic and Environmental Impacts of High-Speed Rail in the World," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(21), pages 1-27, November.
    16. Chen, Zhenhua & Xue, Junbo & Rose, Adam Z. & Haynes, Kingsley E., 2016. "The impact of high-speed rail investment on economic and environmental change in China: A dynamic CGE analysis," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 232-245.

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    More about this item


    High-speed rail; CO2 emissions; Embedded emissions; Infrastructure investment; Monte Carlo simulation; Sensitivity analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • R42 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government and Private Investment Analysis; Road Maintenance; Transportation Planning

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