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Rail Stories

Why the climate is right for trains

Every day we see headlines about a looming ecological crisis. While the global community struggles to develop an action plan, the climate facts keep getting worse. Even if you think humans are not to blame, the polar ice caps are still melting, the rainforest are disappearing, animal populations are in decline, extreme weather is becoming more common, the list goes on. 

But Bombardier is dedicated to solutions – empowering cities, passengers and decision-makers with the right tools to address the challenges we all face. We want to seize this moment of global attention and focus it on the fact that, with its ability to move more people with CO2 less emissions, rail transport must be a part of any global or local solution to climate change. The Climate is Right for Trains is not just a slogan, it’s our global call to action.

Automobiles or trains?

For most of the 20th century, the world was in love with cars. They represented freedom, independence and were a popular way to show off your wealth or style. But when it comes to mobility solutions, cars are a key contributor to global warming. According to a 2016 report by the European Union, smaller vehicles account for 15 per cent of the EU’s total greenhouse gases and when you expand that to include all combustion in road transport, it increases to over one-fifth of the EU’s CO2 emissions.  And while many car manufacturers are taking bold steps and shifting to hybrid or electric vehicles, the overall trend isn't really slowing. Not happy with the 1.2 billion cars already on the road, the automobile industry produced over 92 million new cars in 2019. 

Israel Railway's regional rail electrification project has been key to improving the network's sustainability while alleviating some of the nation's notorious traffic problems.

Small cars account for over 15 per cent of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions.


A public transport solution like our FLEXITY tram has the capacity to move 20,000 passengers per hour, per direction.

As far as getting the job done, cars can't compete with rail’s ability to move a large number of people quickly, safely and efficiently. Even if they have to share the road like a bus, a public transport solution like our FLEXITY tram still has the capacity to move 20,000 passengers per hour, per direction

To make an even stronger case, cars aren't nearly as safe as trains – not even close. In the United States, automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death. For our part, we have already developed a variety of intelligent, digital safety solutions like COMPAS (Collision and Overspeed Monitoring and Prevention Assistance System) and ODAS (Obstacle Detection Assistance System) to make one of the safest public transport options even safer. 

Urban transport solutions like the FLEXITY tram are not only 98 per cent recyclable, a full 98 per cent of the material used to construct them also come from recycled sources.

Maybe the most detrimental aspect of our reliance on automobiles is what it does to our society. Of course the auto industry is a large source of employment and a major engine for the world economy, but this fantastic Wikipedia article on the Effects of the Car on Societies goes into detail on how our reliance on personal automobiles is not only a leading cause of death, but also linked to the fragmentation of local communities and even puts a drag on economic performance. 

Overall, rail transport is inclusive, from passengers with limited mobility and late-night revelers, to office workers and grandmas, the communal aspect of rail brings people together, drives local economies and unites communities, literally and figuratively – all while saving the planet.

As well as making boarding and exiting easier, rail transport is simply more inclusive for passengers as it almost always features dedicated spaces for prams and passengers with limited mobility.

Planes or trains?

The airplane was an amazing development and its arrival was said to have shrunk the planet. Commercial airline travel made even the most far-off destinations accessible to travellers worldwide. 

Airplane travel made far off places and cultures accessible, but short-haul flights definetly take a toll on our environmnent.

Like the telephone, television and mobile technology, commercial airline travel has enabled great leaps in technology, communication, commerce and the exchange of cultures and ideas. However, the recent popularity of short-haul budget travel as a regional transport option might not be as low-cost as we think.  

According to EcoPassenger.com, a short-haul flight from Milan to Rome costs around 113 kilograms of CO2 per person. Short-haul flights just like these take off 24/7 from airports all across the globe, but mostly in developed nations.

According to a report published by the Guardian in the UK, a short-haul flight like Edinburgh to London (about 1 hour 20 mins) contributes an equal amount of C02 that an average Ugandan does in a year.

The ZEFIRO very high-speed train

A fast, high-capacity public mobility solution like our ZEFIRO very high-speed train is a great alternative to emission-heavy short-haul flights like these and can fit into the developing world's existing rail infrastructure. Of course, there will always be cases where a short flight makes more sense. But at 380 km per hour and a much larger passenger capacity, this sustainable mobility solution connects Milan and Rome in just over three hours with an average C02 cost of 24 kilograms per passenger. Based on passenger load, short-haul flight options produce around four times more CO2 emissions per passenger (and probably much more than that) - for the added convenience of getting us there a few hours earlier. 

When you compare the process of flying - getting to the airport, going through security checks, luggage allowance, boarding passes, lines and delays - with the relative ease of the hop-on hop-off nature of rail travel, high-speed rail is an even more attractive alternative for short trips. 

Plus, consider the seat on your short- haul flight with that of a train. Using our Milan-to-Rome example, according to SeatGuru.com, this economy flight on an Airbus A319 gives each passenger around 40 cm between armrests.

On the other hand, our ZEFIRO very high speed train features pioneering levels of comfort and more space. A standard ZEFIRO very high speed train seat offers 55.5 cm between armrests and even reclines to 112 degrees!

Passengers also have more choices, depending onthe layoun the operator selects, ther are four different seating arrangements, ranging from standard 2+2 seating to executive service with 1+1 seating and boardrooms that can seat up to five passengers. Of course free WiFi is included so passengers stay connected while underway. 


Low-cost airlines offer far less passenger capacity and personal space than a high-speed train, and their CO2 emission per person is much higher.

First class seats on the Italian Frecciarossa train which provides passengers with a sustainable mobility option.

Compared to low-cost, short-haul airline travel, eco-friendly mobility solutions like the Frecciarossa very high-speed train, built in cooperation with Hitachi Rail Spa, offer passengers a premium travel experience rivaling low-cost airlines in terms of sustainability.

With rail, you dont only get peace of mind, you get a safe, premium travel experience, with more room, easier connections, better seats and more space all around. And then there is the added enjoyment of watching the countryside zooming past your window.  

The climate is right for trains

The world is going through massive change and there is no way to know what challenge we will face next. But one thing is clear, our population is growing, and more and more people are living in cities and global emissions are rising. 

Current projections suggest the global population will reach 13 billion by 2024 and 18 billion by 2042. But what’s just as important is where these people will be living. Those same projections suggest that as much as 60 per cent, or more of the world’s people will reside in cities by 2030, a trend that has given rise to the global megacity. Defined as metropolitan areas of over 10 million people, 70 years ago there was one global megacity - New York City. But today there are over 30 megacities, most of them in Asia.  

People living in these cities and those of the future will need rapid mobility solutions that get them to work, like our MOVIA metro that helps the megacity of Delhi move nearly five million people a day. But as people prosper, they will also demand longer distance options to move them regionally and internationally. If we invest further into our love of cars and short-haul flights, the future looks a lot dimmer. What will become of coastal cities as sea levels inevitably rise?  

For us the answer is clear: rail. While no mobility solution is perfect, rail transport is the fastest way to save the planet. Its relative low cost makes it inclusive. Its high capacity makes it efficient. Its low relative emissions make it smart and its advanced technology make it the safest option. Bombardier has the answer. The only question left is - what will we choose?