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A bullet train arriving at Tokyo Station
Tomohiro Ohsumi

A Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) Shinkansen bullet train arrives at Tokyo Station on January 19, 2016. Japanese rolling-stock manufacturers have been collaborating with the Japan Railways group to expand the business worldwide with its technology and standards used for the Shinkansen bullet train system. Texas Central Partners LLC plans to start construction of the Texas Central Railway High-Speed Rail Project between Houston and Dallas next year using the Shinkansen bullet train technology.

High-Speed Rail

Reduce SourcesTransportationShift to Alternatives
1.3–3.77
Gigatons
CO2 Equivalent
Reduced / Sequestered
(2020–2050)
$0.61–1.22
Trillion $US
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
$-2.16–-0.85
Trillion $US
Lifetime Net
Operational Savings
High-speed rail offers an alternative to trips otherwise made by car or airplane. It requires special, designated tracks, but can dramatically curtail emissions.

Solution Summary*

In 1964, Japan inaugurated the world’s first high-speed “bullet” train on the Osaka-Tokyo route, a distance of 247 miles. According to the International Union of Railways, there are more than 18,500 miles of high-speed rail (HSR) lines worldwide. That number will increase by 50 percent when current construction is completed; many more thousands of miles are planned and under consideration.

HSR is powered almost exclusively by electricity, not diesel. Compared to driving, flying, or riding conventional rail, it is the fastest way to travel between two points that are a few hundred miles apart and reduces carbon emissions up to 90 percent. Over time, its energy source is likely to get cleaner as renewables generate a greater share of electricity.

HSR is expensive and requires high ridership to break even. That is why only certain places in the world have sufficient population density to support HSR. China has by far the most HSR lines—more than 50 percent of the total—with Japan and Western Europe not far behind. Where adequate density exists, HSR can be an important component of a sustainable transportation system and bring vitality to city centers.

* excerpted from the book, Drawdown
Impact:

Under some business-as-usual projections, 23 million hybrid vehicles will be in operation in 2050, less than 1 percent of the car market. We estimategrowth in 2050 could reach 236-621million hybrid vehicles. Until then, hybridcars can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 4.6-7.9gigatons by 2050, saving owners $3.0-6.1 trillion in fuel and operating costsover the lifetime of the cars.This would cost an additional $1.6-3.4 trillion in net costs.