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“The Future of Rail” Report

Topics Covered:

  1. Important international agencies.
  2. Infrastructure- railways.


“The Future of Rail” Report


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and findings of the report, India’s potential and measures needed to take this growth forward.


Context: “The Future of Rail” Report has been released by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

It examines how the role of rail in global transport might be elevated as a means to reduce the energy use and environmental impacts associated with transport.


Key findings from The Future of Rail:

  1. Rail is among the most energy efficient modes of transport for freight and passengers – while the rail sector carries 8% of the world’s passengers and 7% of global freight transport, it represents only 2% of total transport energy demand.
  2. Today, three-quarters of passenger rail transport activity takes place on electric trains, which is an increase from 60% in 2000 – the rail sector is the only mode of transport that is widely electrified today. This reliance on electricity means that the rail sector is the most energy diverse mode of transport.
  3. The regions with the highest share of electric train activity are Europe, Japan and Russia, while North and South America still rely heavily on diesel.
  4. Passenger rail is significantly more electrified than freight in almost all regions, and regions with higher reliance on urban rail and high-speed rail are those with the largest share of passenger-kilometres served by electricity.
  5. Most conventional rail networks today are located in North America, Europe, China, Russia, India, and Japan. These regions make up about 90% of global passenger movements on conventional rail with India leading at 39%, followed by China at 27%.
  6. In contrast, significant investments have been made in high-speed rail and metros. High-speed rail provides an important alternative to aviation while urban rail provides a solution to cities impacted by congestion and air pollution. Growth has been most notable in China, which has overtaken all other countries in terms of network length of both types within a single decade.


Focus on India:

  1. India’s railway system has played a fundamental role in the country’s development, transporting people and goods throughout its vast territory, integrating markets and connecting communities.
  2. Rail passenger traffic in India has increased by almost 200% since 2000 and freight traffic by 150%, yet latent demand for mobility in India remains huge. In fact, rail activity in India is set to grow more than any other country.
  3. Today, the conventional rail system in India comprises a total route length of almost 68000 km. Metro systems exist in 10 Indian cities. A further 600 km of metro lines are planned for the next few years.
  4. For now, India does not have any high-speed rail. However, in 2015 India and Japan signed an agreement to develop a high-speed rail line connecting the cities of Ahmedabad and Mumbai, to come into operation in 2023.
  5. Seven other high-speed lines are currently under consideration. Once completed, they would connect the four cities that constitute the Golden Quadrilateral (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) plus other intermediate cities.


About IEA:

Established in 1974 as per framework of the OECD.

MISSION – The IEA works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 30 member countries and beyond. Our mission is guided by four main areas of focus: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide

Headquarters (Secretariat): Paris, France

A candidate country must be a member country of the OECD. But all OECD members are not IEA members (Ex:Chile, Iceland, Israel, Latvia and Slovenia).

To become member a candidate country must demonstrate that it has:

  • crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports, to which the government has immediate access (even if it does not own them directly) and could be used to address disruptions to global oil supply
  • a demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%
  • legislation and organisation to operate the Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) on a national basis
  • legislation and measures to ensure that all oil companies under its jurisdiction report information upon request;
  • measures in place to ensure the capability of contributing its share of an IEA collective action.


IEA mandate:

To focus on the “3Es” of effectual energy policy:

  1. Energy security
  2. Economic development
  3. Environmental protection



  1. Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017.
  2. World Energy Outlook.
  3. World Energy Statistics 2017.
  4. World Energy Balances 2017.
  5. Energy Technology Perspectives.


Sources: pib.

Mains Question: “The Future of Rail Opportunities for energy” report, released by the International Energy Agency, has painted a bright future for Indian railways. Discuss the report and the efforts made by the government in recent years to modernize Indian railways.