Carbon Emission Comparison: Eurostar vs. Indian Railways

Rail travel is always projected as being the more fuel efficient transport - when compared to air travel anyway.

So anyway, this Sunday evening, a bug caught me and I began to wonder: Is it more fuel efficient to travel by high speed trains that are modern in design and run in western countries, or if it is cheaper in face to travel by slow moving mass carriers, such as trains in India.

At the face of it, it seems slower mass transport is bound to not only be cheaper, but also more fuel efficient and thus more 'green'. But lets not hypothesise over it, lets get some actual numbers out.

According to the Eurostar website: The carbon emissions per passenger distance travelled for the London-Paris round trip are 11 grams per passenger kilometre.

So lets see: there are no exact figures calculated for Indian Railways - at least none I want to depend on, so let me calculate it myself. I got access to the Annual Statistical Statements 2006-07 which is the latest year for which stats are available.

So I focused on two classes of stats:
  1. Total passenger kilometres (col.13 on pg. 12 of pdf)
  2. Fuel consumed for passenger services (col.3 on pg.4 of pdf)
The reports may appear confusing if you're unfamiliar with Indian Railways. They're divided into several zones (it is in fact the fifth largest network in the world) and stats are computed for each zone separately and then weighted averages calculated.

Anyway - so here are the figures I managed to dig out.

Total Passenger Kilometres: 694 billion kilometres ('a') = 694,000 million km.
Total fuel consumed (equivalent in coal): 759,140 tonnes ('b') = 759.14 million kg.

Coal used per passenger kilometre in 2006-07: 1.09 grams
Indian Railways: 1.09 grams
Eurostar: 11 grams

So effectively, Indian Railways is 10 times more carbon-efficient than the Eurostar's most efficient journey.

--- But before you say 'yay' read this:

If you would believe the stats offered by the Indian Railways, it is in fact the safest rail network in the world with the lowest accidents per million km:
Japan Railway Group: 0.65
Germany: 0.91
France: 0.84
Italy: 0.73
Indian Railway: 0.55

Of course this doesn't take into account fatalities or fatalities in suburban rail networks: with 20,000 people dead in Mumbai in rail accidents between Jan 2003-Dec 2007.

Not surprising. Youtube is full of videos like this one.

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