A new study by a team of researchers at Oxford University and the University of Washington found that low cost, low-energy transport systems can be as effective as high-cost, high-emissions transport systems in increasing the speed of travel, which is vital to the health of the economy.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at light rail projects in the US and Europe, which can be compared with high-density rail, which requires more infrastructure.
The researchers compared the effectiveness of light rail to high-speed rail and to diesel-powered trains.
“Our findings suggest that the benefits of light-rail, while being significant, are offset by some of the disadvantages,” said study author Dr Michael Schurig, from Oxford’s School of Engineering and Science and a professor of mechanical engineering.
“The light-track system is not as fast, it’s not as convenient, it can be expensive and it has its own risks.
In addition, light-traffic systems often require additional infrastructure.”
Dr Schurie said the study also found that light rail could be used to reduce carbon emissions and improve health outcomes.
The light rail systems in the United States are largely built by private developers.
They often include high-capacity stations with high speeds and frequent stopovers.
These stations typically run on diesel engines, which require more fuel to run.
Dr Schüter said light rail might be able to reduce the environmental impacts of these types of high-trafficked routes.
“In the UK, for example, a rail link that runs every few minutes is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to reduce pollution,” he said.
“But the cost and the environmental impact are huge.”
The light-speed routes in the UK were originally designed to carry trains at speeds up to 300km/h (186mph), but they now run at up to 160km/hr (101mph).
Dr Schuter said this reduced the impact of air pollution and increased the efficiency of rail.
The new study, however, found that the effectiveness was significantly reduced when light rail was built on existing railways.
“A low-cost and low-emission system with an infrastructure level of light, which has a lower carbon footprint, can reduce air pollution in an area that has an existing railway network,” Dr Schuerig said.
Light rail in Europe was initially designed to move around Europe by light rail trains, but that infrastructure has been improved.
The rail network in Germany is already one of Europe’s most efficient and reliable, but the European Union aims to double the speed and capacity of light railways in 2020.
“Light rail is not a replacement for high- speed rail, but it could be a key component of an integrated transport system,” Dr Schwirig said, adding that he was encouraged by the results of the study.
“These results show that light-tracks can have important environmental and health benefits.”
The study found that trains had an environmental impact that was almost identical to that of high speed rail.
However, the study found there were significant costs associated with light rail.
“There are costs associated, for instance, with the cost of the station and the cost for moving people from one station to another,” Dr Chiu said.
The authors say that the findings suggest low-carbon transport systems, which are cheaper to build and maintain, could potentially be an effective solution for a rapidly changing and complex transportation network.
They also said that the research could inform the design of other low-impact transport systems.
The research was funded by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council and the UK’s Transport Research Board.