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Study on Improving Rail Energy Efficiency (E2): Best Practices and Strategies

[+] Author Affiliations
Aviva Brecher

Volpe National Transportation Center, Cambridge, MA

Melissa Shurland

Federal Railroad Administration, Washington, DC

Paper No. JRC2015-5621, pp. V001T07A001; 8 pages
  • 2015 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2015 Joint Rail Conference
  • San Jose, California, USA, March 23–26, 2015
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5645-1


A recent Volpe Center report [1] for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Rail Energy, Environment, and Engine (E3) Technology research and development program reviewed rail industry best practices (BPs) and strategies for improving energy efficiency (E2) and environmental sustainability. The review included examples of and opportunities for adoption of international transferrable BPs, and US technologies for equipment, operations and logistics software tools that have measurably improved E2 performance for passenger and freight railroads. Drivers providing renewed impetus for rail industry E2 advances include environmental compliance requirements with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) locomotive emission standards, US Department of Transportation Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program grants, state, regional and urban clean diesel campaigns, as well as the FRA National Rail Plan, and High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) initiatives. The report presented comparative rail system energy efficiency data and trends relative to competing modes, illustrated the benefits of energy-efficient technologies, and of alternative fuels use. Based on a comprehensive literature review and on experts’ inputs, the report highlighted models of corporate rail sustainability plans and system-wide BPs and success stories. Available rail equipment and operational practices proven to improve E2 with environmental and economic benefits for all rail industry segments were illustrated. Findings and recommendations for further improving rail E2 and sustainability were tailored to the specific needs and goals of intercity and commuter passenger rail, and freight railroads (Class I-III). Key opportunities highlighted included: public-private partnerships (P3) with Federal agencies (FRA, EPA/SmartWay) for joint research, development test and evaluation (RDT&E)on advanced equipment (electric and hybrid, or dual fuel locomotives), or alternative fuels (biodiesel, CNG/LNG, Fuel cells/Hydrogen); participation in international rail organizations (UIC) and trade associations (AAR, AREMA, APTA, AASHTO), and partnering with regional and State environmental protection agencies for cross-enterprise E2 and sustainability improvements.



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