From InnoTrans: How green is my railroad?

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trains magazine Editor Jim Wrinn is in Germany covering InnoTrans 2010.

How green do you want it to be?

I knew before I even left the U.S., that I was in for a surprise when it comes to how important the railways in Europe view their role in preserving the environment, and how critical the public is of the railroads’ environmentalism. Whether you believe in or are skeptical of global warming, these folks know that playing the green card is important to constituents here. In Milwaukee, days before my trip to Germany to the InnoTrans railway conference, I ran a search for schedules between key cities on my trip. Not only did I get times and connections, I also learned the carbon impact of each trip vs. taking a car. Yes, this is deep green territory.

That awareness is evident just about everywhere you turn at this show. Take Bombardier, for example. Its two headliner products are on display front and center on the outdoor display tracks beneath a huge billboard that says, “The fastest way to save the planet.” Startling, isn’t it? Beneath this giant sign are the ALP-45DP, a dual-power unit that runs off diesel or electric; NJ Transit and Montreal’s commuter agency have ordered copies. The descriptive panel next to the first unit, No. 4500, gives the basics of horsepower, speed, and makes it clear that the unit feeds power back into the catenary “for efficiency and environmental performance.” Next door is a Bombardier light rail vehicle that’s part of the firm’s ECO4 effort that screams “CLEAN diesel” in its exterior art work. What makes it so clean: 83 percent less particulates, 70 percent less nitrogen oxides, and 20 percent less fuel consumption. The lower the fuel use, the less CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

At GE’s press conference Wednesday about its PowerHaul freight units, two representatives of the Dutch transportation department listened in because of the country’s concern for the environment.

Earlier in the week, at the opening press conference, I heard one speaker after another provide evidence for why trains are better for the environment. Only a bus or a bicycle is better on CO2 emissions, said Ronald Porner of the German railway association. New ways to reduce emissions will come in new and different ways, he said, including a diesel that takes waste heat, uses it to boil water, and uses the steam to run a turbine that puts energy back into the drive train. It’s a way to get 15 percent more efficiency, he said. Another speaker, Martin Henke, pointed out that trains can use electricity generated by wind power. And Roland Leucker, of the association for subterranean transport, noted that railways are easy to locate underground, especially in urban areas, so that people can use the surface.

Even the Germany railway system, the DB, is on the bandwagon. The company painted a globe with a green butterfly hovering over it on the trucks of its latest covered hopper car on display at the show.

How green is my railroad, indeed!

Bombardier banner at InnoTrans





Bombardier made sure InnoTrans goers got the message that it's a green resource with this giant banner displayed over top of its new hybrid electric and diesel commuter train unit for NJ Transit and its light rail vehicle. Jim Wrinn photo


German railway system truck













The German railway system goes green with this depiction of the green earth on the side of a truck. Coming to a covered hopper near you -- if you're in Germany! Jim Wrinn photo



At InnoTrans, it’s fun doing business with you, by Jim Wrinn (September 22, 2010)
Grocery shopping by rail on a Sunday night in Berlin
, by Jim Wrinn (September 21, 2010)
Timing is everything, by Jim Wrinn (September 20, 2010)

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