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In the news or various other places, we see often that train travel produces significantly less greenhouse gas than air travel, without much information about how this is calculated. For example here : https://reporterre.net/L-avion-emet-1-500-fois-plus-de-CO2-que-le-train

On the other hand, they hardly ever mention if the infrastructure is taken in account. For train travel, stations, rolling material, rails, ballast, viaducts, tunnels, have to be built and maintained, sometimes replaced regularly. When passengers increase, new tracks and new stations have to be built, sometimes infrastructure extension can become very heavy. This is mostly done with construction vehicle running on diesel, and tons of concrete are used. The higher speed the train line, the more heavy is the infrastructure, in particular larger viaducts, longer tunnels, and rails used more quickly.

Air travel, as much polluting as it is, only needs airports and the planes themselves to be built and maintained. There's no need for infrastructure on the way between airports.

Maybe this is already taken in account in the calculation made "ready for the public" on the news, and that despite this the train is favourable. But I prefer to be always skeptical of the info and try to understand how this is calculated.

  • You still need infrastructure around the airport to get to it. Would you include this also? Also, air travel relies on radio and radar stations, which also need to be built & maintained. Furthermore, which type of train are we talking about? Electrical, diesel, coal? Which travel distance are you interested in? – Erik Oct 9 at 7:30
  • @Erik Obviously all "gray energy" for infrastructure, including what you mentioned, would have to be calculated. I don't particularly care about one type of train or one particular travel distance, I just wish to know whether or not those "studies" are including infrastructure greenhouse emissions, which sounds to me massive especially in the case of high-speed trains. – Bregalad Oct 9 at 16:01

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