Impact of High-Speed Rail on Road Traffic and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
81 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2021 Last revised: 14 Oct 2021
Date Written: March 27, 2021
Carbon emission reduction in the transportation sector is essential in the global mitigation effort and a large-scale public transport system has the potential to be an effective instrument. High speed rail (HSR) is one such example, yet it is unclear how much reduction in road traffic results from new rail routes. Using the difference-in-differences (DID) method, we show that new HSR routes in China leads to a 20.5 log-point reduction in the number of passenger vehicles and a 15.7 log-point reduction in freight vehicles running on parallel highways. These reductions were not seen on ordinary national roads. These effects translate into an annual reduction of 14.76 million tons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or 1.75% of GHG emissions in China’s transport sector. This mitigation effect mainly comes from the substitution of highway goods transport with the conventional railway, instead of the direct replacement of highway passenger transport with HSR. The environmental benefit of HSR in China has not been fully realized because of the thermal-dominated electricity supply. Our further projections suggest that in greener electricity conditions, the HSR in China can significantly contribute more to the reduction in GHG emissions from the transport sector.
Keywords: High-speed rail, road traffic, GHG emissions
JEL Classification: Q540, R410
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