Rail Freight Workshop

26 February 2018

Melanie Hobson and Mark Gibbs of Aether facilitated a workshop on rail freight emissions hosted by the Freight Transport Association in London on the 21st of February.  As air quality issues attract increasing public scrutiny, this is a topic of pressing interest to the whole rail freight industry as evidenced by the attendance of representatives from all major stakeholder organisations, including freight train operators, DfT, Network Rail, RDG, RFG, ORR and RSSB.

Aether compiles the rail emissions component of the UK National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory.  Mark and Melanie presented on the current methodology and underlying data used to estimate rail freight emissions at the national level, and on how the resulting outputs are of limited use for air quality studies at the local level or for transport mode comparisons.  The ongoing development of low emission and electric road vehicles means the gap between road and rail is decreasing: the previously generally accepted environmental advantages of rail freight will likely diminish over the next decades, while the prominence of rail emissions, particularly in a key local settings, will rise.  Meaningful “apples to apples” comparisons are something that rail freight customers are increasingly requiring in order to fully understand the impact of their operations on emissions throughout the supply chain.

There was a strong commitment from industry representatives to collaborate by providing data that is already available in some form within different organisations.  Utilizing such data on engine performance and traffic flows on key routes would be a cost-effective way to help develop more accurate and defensible emission estimates.  These would better reflect locomotive fleet utilisation, changes in trainloads and freight train pathing (e.g., time waiting in sidings).

The next steps will be planning the implementation of the identified potential improvements, including making relatively quick refinements to the national inventory, devising a tractable approach to harnessing more granular data, and ground-truthing with robust emissions measurements of real-world freight trains drive cycles.  It was widely acknowledged by attendees that good quality emissions data will be a crucial foundation for effective future investment and policy decisions that will address the rail freight industry’s impact on air quality.

Photo credit: © Copyright Phil Sangwell

See all news

Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“Engaging Aether to support us to develop the first GHG Inventory System and first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for the United Republic of Tanzania has been a rewarding experience due to their high level of professionalism, creativity, timeliness and value for money. We will definitely consider Aether in our future initiatives.”

Abbas Kitogo, Programme Specialist Energy and Climate Change, UNDP Tanzania

“Aether delivered training workshops and generated learning materials for our SSN members, providing technical content in a manageable and comprehendible format. We particularly benefitted from their extensive knowledge and ability to interpret the needs of our members into the training materials.”

Jennifer Anderson, Sustainable Scotland Network

“I must congratulate each of you for your professional and tireless efforts. Let me point out that this has been the 'neatest' in-country review expert review team I have coordinated, and it has been a real pleasure.”

UNFCCC Secretariat

“If we have a need for any more reports in the future Aether will be first on my list.”

Alan Hardy, Kyson Design

“The team at Aether works very professionally and communicates very well which makes working with them a pleasure. Outputs are delivered on time to high quality. The team brings the rigour of technical knowledge and expertise and finds innovative ways of communicating complex messages. I would be happy to recommend the Aether team to organisations working on analysing and presenting emissions information in the public domain.”

Fiona Glover, States of Jersey

Contact us

Get in touch

Call us on +44 1865 261 466, complete the short form below, or go to the Contact page

 Security code