Ecology profile of the german high-speed rail passenger transport system, ICE

  • Christian von Rozycki
  • Heinz KoeserEmail author
  • Henning Schwarz
LCA Case Studies


Intention, Goal, Scope, Background, Objectives

Environmental effects caused by the railway transport services have rarely been investigated in depth from a systemic point of view. A screening LCA, called ecology profile, of the German high-speed passenger train system, the ICE, is presented here, based on a study conducted by the University of Halle and the Deutsche Bahn AG, the major German rail operator. In this study, the resource consumption caused by traction, manufacturing and maintenance of ICE trains, as well as construction and operation of the supporting rail infrastructure and buildings, have been evaluated using cumulative energy demand (CED), cumulative material input per service unit (MIPS) and CO2 emissions as indicators.


Approximately 200 items of inventory data were collected from DB AG experts, manufacturers, site balances and the associated literature. They were allocated in order to derive 100-person-kilometre-related mass and energy consumption figures. The appropriate CED, MIPS and CO2 factors were applied in order to quantify the indirect efforts associated with the inventory data.


For the reference high-speed route investigated, Hanover-Wuerzburg, the railroad infrastructure does not contribute the high share of resource consumption to the life cycle of the transport service which was expected from other studies. For the reference route, the CED of the infrastructure contributes 13% to the total CED per 100 person kilometres, whilst the energy demand of the traction process dominates the life cycle. Within the railway infrastructure, the construction of tunnels and the heating of rail points during winter time are significant primary-energy active components, whereas the energy requirement for maintaining the railway stations is a minor factor in comparison. The environmental impact of new technologies for designing rail tracks have also been analysed. The new ballastless slab track technology investigated needs higher absolute resource inputs in the construction phase compared with the traditional gravel bed, but due to higher life expectancy, it competes favourably at the 100-person-kilometre level, at least in terms of material requirements. Efforts to reduce the traction energy consumption of the ICE train will have the greatest impact on the CED of the transport system. In summary, a total of 48 kg of solid primary resources are needed for a passenger to travel 100 km by ICE.


The results presented can be used for modelling other high-speed railway transport systems. A comparison of the ecology profiles of the German, French and Japanese high-speed train systems would be of interest in order to identify potential areas for improvement. Additional studies are needed to evaluate the short-hop, commuter train service. Further efforts should be directed to comparing the infrastructure of the high speed train and that of highway road traffic.

Key words

CED CO2 emission cumulative energy demand high speed transport LCA life cycle assessment material input per service unit MIPS railway infrastructure railway passenger transport 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian von Rozycki
    • 1
  • Heinz Koeser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Henning Schwarz
    • 2
  1. 1.Martin-Luther-University, Halle-Wittenberg, Environmental Protection TechnologyHalleGermany
  2. 2.Deutsche Bahn AG, Railway-Environmental-Center, Resource-Efficiency/Eco-Controlling, GermanyBerlinGermany

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