Assessing carbon dioxide emissions of high-speed rail: The case of Beijing-Shanghai corridor

Peihong Chen, Yuan Lu, Yulai Wan, Anming Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides an ex-post assessment of net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail (HSR) by including both mode substitution and traffic generation effects with a life-cycle approach. We are among the first authors to examine the emissions effects of a long-haul HSR and to consider the effects of avoided infrastructure expansion and vehicle manufacturing due to traffic diversion. We find that avoided infrastructure expansion plays a limited role in offsetting CO2 emissions from the construction of an HSR infrastructure, but the reduced demand for passenger vehicles can offset a larger share of emissions from the manufacturing of HSR rolling stock. Initially, too much traffic was diverted from ordinary-speed rail (OSR) to HSR, increasing emissions at the operation stage. As traffic diverted from road and air increased, the net emissions at the operation stage turned negative, offsetting emissions from infrastructure construction and vehicle manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102949
JournalTransportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Carbon dioxide emissions
  • High-speed rail
  • Life-cycle assessment
  • Mode substitution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Environmental Science(all)


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