To enable more intensive use of the rail network, NS and ProRail (Dutch train and track operators, respectively) intend to raise the overhead voltage from 1.5 kV to 3 kV. This measure will also help improve the sustainability of rail transport, as it will reduce energy loss in overhead lines and improve the efficiency with which braking energy is recovered and utilized.
In this study for ProRail, CE Delft compared the environmental and energy benefits of switching to 3 kV with the benefits of other energy-related measures, varying from investment in wind turbines to increased admixture of biofuels. Besides comparing the effectiveness of the various measures in terms of Mt CO2 reduction, the study also examined how the measures compare in terms of cost effectiveness per tonne avoided CO2.
Our study shows that switching to 3 kV is a very cost-effective means of reducing rail CO2 emissions, cutting them by 15%. While this will lead to a further greening of rail transport, this measure will still make only a limited contribution to the total CO2 reduction required in the Netherlands, however, because rail transport accounts for only a minor fraction of aggregate Dutch CO2 emissions.