Environmental impacts of modal shift from truck to rail – Tangshan, China


To reduce air pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, the port of Tangshan, one of the key ports located near the capital of Beijing, will shift transport of all iron ore imports from truck to rail. We estimate this will eliminate 30,000 truck trips daily and with the current train fleet, about 70% electric and 30% diesel, reduce diesel use approximately 85% annually. But the net impacts of this strategy on climate and air quality depend on the emissions associated with the rail system.

This chart normalizes tank-to-wheel emissions of particulate matter, NOx, and CO2 from the current truck fleet at 1. As illustrated, switching transport to the current train fleet offers significant savings of local CO2 and some reduction in local NOx, but PM increases because there is no emission control technology required for diesel trains. PM and CO2 emissions are both higher when upstream emissions are included, and all emissions are higher than if all trucks used met the world-class China VI emission standard. Advanced emission control technologies, either to address upstream emissions from electricity production or on diesel train engines, would avoid most of the well-to-wheel emissions associated with rail transport.

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