Green Railways: Exploring Europe’s Eco-Friendly Train Routes

In local context, this smart solution involves renovating and adapting disused railway lines as hiking or cycling paths. It attracts visitors who can walk, bike or – in wintertime – enjoy cross-country skiing along these paths.

Research topics in green railway are continuously evolving through push and pull effects from both external and internal paths. The cooperation map of research institutions, keyword co-occurrence network and clustering map are generated.

1. Germany

In Germany, rail companies like Deutsche Bahn are going green. The company uses electricity from renewable sources to power their trains. This more sustainable approach to freight is not only good for the environment, but it’s also saving money. This greener way of doing business is being expanded worldwide, including in VW’s truck division. They are talking to fuel providers for LNG/CNG stations in Europe, and supporting logistics providers to invest in cleaner trucks that use liquid or compressed natural gas (LNG) instead of diesel.

The German train network is a vital link in the country’s economy and social life. The national carrier, Deutsche Bahn, operates around 2,500 miles (3,700km) of tracks. The company aims to reduce its emissions by 30% in 2025, and has started switching from diesel to green energy. In addition to cutting down on CO2, it is investing in hydrogen-powered trains. The Coradia iLint trains from Alstom use an electrochemical process that turns hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. They then store the excess in ion lithium batteries onboard, making them zero emission trains.

For passengers, the new zero-emission trains will be quieter and more comfortable than conventional diesel trains. They can run on partially electrified stretches, tapping into overhead power lines for a charge. The train’s battery will also last for up to 10 years before it needs to be replaced.

While the Green Party is supportive of new hydrogen trains, it also advocates a strong network of night trains. The night trains are currently under threat as Deutsche Bahn has dropped some services due to financial reasons. The Greens want to see more funding for the infrastructure and to restructure the role of Deutsche Bahn.

2. France

France has a rich history of rail travel and has a deep commitment to sustainable and green transportation. Their high-speed TGV trains offer a quick, convenient and eco-friendly travel experience for travelers. They can reach speeds up to 320 km/h, which is faster than an airplane and also more energy-efficient. This helps reduce the country’s reliance on air travel for shorter distances, while still providing a comfortable journey for passengers.

The country is also embracing innovative technologies that streamline train travel for both domestic and international travelers. For instance, online ticketing and real-time journey updates allow travelers to plan their trips with ease. In addition, contactless payment and digital wayfinding systems at stations help eliminate paper waste and optimize operational efficiency.

Furthermore, the country is making significant progress towards a more sustainable future by transitioning from diesel to electric trains. This will significantly reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of the entire railway network. Additionally, the nation is focusing on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power to power their trains. The latest development is a revolutionary hydrogen-electric train from Alstom, which made its debut in 2018 and is set to be launched for production in 2025.

In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly important for both consumers and businesses, it’s no wonder that many European countries are putting a heavy focus on their railway networks. As a result, they are able to provide an environmentally friendly and seamless travel experience for both local and international travellers. With an extensive railway network, it’s no surprise that more and more people are choosing to travel by train. In fact, a trip from Paris to Rome emits 10 times less CO2 per passenger-kilometer than an equivalent flight.

3. Italy

For many travelers, train travel offers a unique opportunity to connect with local culture while respecting the environment. Trains emit 30 percent less carbon dioxide per passenger mile than cars and 20 percent less than planes, and they are also a more economical way to get around. And it’s not just national rail operators taking action: regional train routes are introducing new trains to promote green tourism, using vintage locomotives and carriages.

In Sardinia, the Ferrovie della Sardegna, with the support of Ente Sardo Industrie Turistiche and Italia Nostra, has restored old cars and stations to revive an ancient tradition. The Green Train of Sardinia starts in Mandas and crosses all of Sardinia’s provinces to end at Tempio Pausania, and along the way you pass abandoned castles, small country churches and spectacular viaducts.

Another green railway that runs through beautiful natural scenery is Italy’s coast-hugging line that loops around the Cinque Terre in Liguria. Called an express, this train gently pootles above all five of the Unesco-listed seaside villages of Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola.

While high-speed trains are efficient, they can be a bit noisy for some passengers. To avoid this, some regional train lines are introducing new “tri-brid” trains to reduce emissions and noise levels. Euronews Green visited Hitachi Rail, a company that produces these new trains, to learn more about how they work.

4. Spain

Train travel may not be as luxurious as driving your own car or as fast as flying in a plane, but it is an eco-friendly way to get around Europe, especially in Spain. The country is transforming its railway system and in doing so, it’s reducing emissions by pushing people to ride trains rather than drive cars or fly on planes. It also plans to shut its coal power plants by 2023.

The country’s refurbished rail-trails, known as vias verdes, are a great option for walking or cycling, and the 98 old railway stations located along these paths are now home to bike rental services, cafes, restaurants, small museums, and information points. Additionally, some of the paths are equipped with a special surface that’s safe for cyclists with reduced mobility.

As a result, these 129 green routes are perfect for anyone who wants to explore Green Spain. And, the best part? They’re free! This year, Renfe is introducing a new initiative that’s attempting to attract more people to travel by train. In the first two months of the year, the number of passengers on commuting trains increased by almost 36 per cent.

Although the majority of the vias verdes are designed for leisure use, they have a significant role as GI linkers in territorial planning strategies. However, these stretches of tracks are often forgotten by planners and remain underutilized. This is particularly evident in the Girona and Alicante case studies. Therefore, this paper investigates the conversion of these stretches into greenways from an environmental perspective. The landscape function of these stretches is assessed using different public administration sources, such as Natura 2000 and the forest map.

5. Greece

When it comes to ‘epic train journeys,’ Greece doesn’t usually spring to mind. But the country’s impressive (if short) railway network has a few green perks to offer.

Back in 1885, when Prime Minister Ioannis Trikoupis first proposed the construction of a national railway network, it was a colossal project. It involved building some 700 kilometres across Thessaly, Peloponnese and Attica – including the lines Piraeus – Corinth, Larissa – Border and Kryoneri – Agrinio – on both metre and standard gauge.

The main question was whether the national railway would be private – as some politicians, like Alexandros Koumoundouros, advocated – or state owned. This decision had a significant impact on the cost of works. Since the metre gauge was cheaper than the standard one, Trikoupis opted for a national network constructed on the metre gauge.

It didn’t take long before the network was plagued by problems. In just three years, a series of accidents occurred. Some were due to poor maintenance, while others had to do with human factors. The most serious, however, happened in April 1889, when a train from Katerini derailed on its way to Patras. A large number of passengers were killed, while more than 400 people were injured.

This accident was partly caused by the fact that the synchronisation of the railway signals had failed. This is why it is vital that Greek trains adopt the European Train Control System – ETCS – as soon as possible.

In addition, it is vital that the government reforms the Greek railway company without closing down lines and turns to sustainable transport policies and greater infrastructure investment. Only in this way will it be possible to save the network and make it a truly green railway, capable of competing with the car as a mode of transport that is environmentally friendly and affordable at the same time.

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