External costs

The promotion of railway transport and of Combined Transport interests the public sector given that these techniques generate considerably less external costs than road transport.

“External costs” refers to the costs generated by a commercial or a transport activity and borne not by the responsible entity but rather by the community or carried over to future generations. It relates in particular to accidents, climate changes, harmful effects to health and crops due to environmental pollution caused by exhaust gases, noise pollution, landscape parcelling, surface treatment, etc.

Statistics on accidents in railway transport are 20 to 50 times lower than in road transport, and energy consumption and production of exhaust gases are often significantly lower than in road transport, indeed often lower that in short-distance sea shipping.

A UIRR study run within the context of the PACT programme (Pilot Actions for Combined Transport) showed that the transfer of road consignments onto rail in unaccompanied transport with swap bodies, containers and semi-trailers enables energy savings of 29% and reduction of CO2 emissions of up to 60%.

CO2 reductions per kilometre
(rail versus road)


As long as the EU does not succeed in applying – as so often announced – the “polluter-payer” principle, it is important to provide financial support for Combined Transport due to its great benefit to the national economy.

Related documents
CT and CO2 emissions DE EN FR