Environmental impacts of modal shift to rail in Tangshan
China’s State Council seeks to reduce air pollution via several strategies, including shifting bulk freight transport from on-road heavy-duty vehicles, which are a major source of urban air pollution, to railroads and waterway. Accordingly, and because of the especially severe air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the key industrial city of Tangshan will shift transport of all iron ore imports from the Tangshan port from truck to rail.
This study evaluates the environmental and energy performance of this strategy by comparing the fuel life-cycle emissions and energy use of various truck and rail technologies. Rail transport is generally more efficient for bulk transport, and we find the modal shift would eliminate 30,000 truck trips daily. However, as illustrated in the figure below, doing so with the current train fleet would reduce local emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) but increase tank-to-wheel (TTW) emissions of particulate matter (PM). Additionally, when the upstream emissions are included, they are higher than those in the current truck fleet for PM and carbon dioxide (CO2) on a well-to-wheel (WTW) basis.
Results also show that tighter emission controls on the railway system are required to match the environmental benefits that would be achieved by using China VI trucks. But with advanced emission control technologies, either for upstream emissions from electricity production or on rail engines powered by diesel, modal shift to rail in the electric train fleet with a cleaner grid and advanced diesel fleet scenarios would avoid a majority of the emissions associated with the transport of iron ore imports. This would also help meet the targets for an ultralow-emission steel production industry.