Ecodesign of high-speed railway lines

Science topics November 2018 TransportInnovationEnergy

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  • Trains : a question of energy? (Pierre-Olivier Vandanjon)                                                                                                                                                              video in french language

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Can we make trains and their infrastructure more environmentally friendly? To answer this public interest question, it is necessary to carry out an environmental assessment of the entire life cycle of the infrastructure under consideration. This work allows researchers to identify the phases where improvement is needed. This provides some innovative research results that assist the ecodesign of high-speed railway lines.

Decision-making tools for the creation of high-speed lines

To carry out the environmental assessment of transport infrastructure, IFSTTAR researchers apply the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. This allows them to make a comprehensive assessment of the infrastructure's life cycle, from construction and use through to maintenance.
This approach advocates the optimization of design parameters in order to reduce the consumption of resources and environmental impacts. It also shows that the use phase can have a significant environmental impact. Its evaluation must be sufficiently sensitive to design parameters. This explains why the researchers have developed a consumption model for high-speed trains. This provides a way of assessing energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during the use phase of high-speed lines (HSL). This model was validated during the acceptance tests of the Rhine-Rhône high-speed line.
With the assistance of a large number of experts, other models were tested during the construction and maintenance phases. The methodology, known as PEAM (Project Energy Assessment Method), brings together all these models. It has been applied to compare two alternative routes for the Montpellier-Perpignan high-speed line project, and, via interaction with SNCF Réseau, helps to inform public decisions before they are finally made.

Optimising energy consumption from the design phase

The speed required for a high-speed line is a sensitive design parameter. A TGV cannot cope with tight bends and requires a route with wider curves. Construction works are required to integrate the line within the landscape, and these require a large amount of energy.
Furthermore, much of the energy dissipated by high-speed trains is due to aerodynamic forces, which increase in proportion to the square of the speed. Consumption, during the use phase, increases significantly with this parameter. However, if the speed is reduced, travel time will increase, modifying the service provided to the user.

Energy consumption can be reduced while still maintaining compatible schedules. The scientists propose that the train operation instructions for drivers should incorporate eco-driving objectives. These acceleration, deceleration and stopping instructions must be considered in relation to the layout, from the design phase.


PEAM therefore makes it possible to predict the energy used and the greenhouse gas emissions produced by a high-speed rail project. It is an ongoing topic of research that is evolving to take into account new environmental indicators.



Contact : Pierre-Olivier Vandanjon, Département AME, laboratoire Ease




To find out more...

Pierre Olivier Vandanjon, Agnès Jullien, Michel Dauvergne, Véronique Cerezo. Report : Livrable phare du Contrat d'Objectifs et de Performances entre l'État et l'Ifsttar (2013-2016) : ACV des projets d’infrastructures route/rail à l’échelle d’un réseau avec prise en compte des paramètres d’éco-conception
BOSQUET, Romain, JULLIEN, Agnès, VANDANJON, Pierre Olivier, DAUVERGNE, Michel, SANCHEZ, Flora, 2014, Eco-design model of a railway: A method for comparing the energy consumption of two project variants, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 33, ELSEVIER, pp.111-124, DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2014.08.003
Romain Bosquet. Modélisation énergétique et identification des trains pour l’écoconception des lignes ferroviaires à grande vitesse. Automatique / Robotique. Nantes University, 2015. French