What about rail?

13 March 2019


On 12th March 2019, Bond Beter Leefmilieu published 11 crucial solutions for the environment and climate. And we can only encourage that, because an ambitious plan is exactly what we need. But the climate proposals that circulate today often lack a very essential element. Nobody disputes that transport is an important sector for CO2 savings.

But why are we mainly talking about passenger transport and road traffic innovation? Freight transport represents almost 10% of all CO2 emissions in Belgium (compared to 12% for passenger transport) and is mainly caused by our excessive use of trucks (75% of all freight transport). And those CO2 emissions will grow at least another 30% over the next ten years.

We urgently need to work on shifting freight transport from road to rail. Because electric vehicles alone will not save the world. The electrification of our fleet will take far too long, cost a lot of money, and just make that we are electrically stuck in traffic jams in a few years.

We have to get off the road. Massively. And fast. Every expert agrees: the shift from the road to the much more climate-conscious rail is common sense and urgent.The facts are there: rail emits 9 times less CO2, uses 6 times less energy and causes 8 times less air pollution. Admittedly, we are already encouraging everyone to take the train to work instead of the car. But we are barely doing anything about the nearly 10% CO2 emissions from goods transport that is mainly caused by trucks. You only need to point a "handful" of companies in the right direction of using rail and the positive impact on our climate policy would be considerable.

On 20th February 2019, Belgian policy makers, NGOs (including Bond Beter Leefmilieu), academics, federations (including Febetra) and many others expressed their support for the action plan to double rail freight volumes by 2030. Because it is the only way to make our climate targets for transport somewhat feasible. Any future transport policy that wants to take the climate seriously must take rail very seriously.

This is an absolute no-brainer.

Geert Pauwels on behalf of the Belgian Forum of Rail Freight Operators