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Urban rail boost could support Africa’s sustainable future – Alstom


If the modal share of urban rail in African cities increases to 10% in 2030 and 20% in 2050, compared with the baseline scenario of 1% today, one gigaton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be avoided between 2023 and 2050, says rail mobility solutions group Alstom in a new report titled ‘The Role of Urban Rail in Sustainable Africa’.

By Irma Venter, Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor – Engineering News

This is equal to 32% of Africa’s total greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019.

Also, 173-million additional tons of CO2 would be avoided between 2023 and 2050 if urban rail systems were fully powered by renewable energy.

A strong move to rail would also see a daily reduction of eight-million cars on African roads in 2030, and 29-million in 2050, leading to a significant decrease in congestion, road accidents and air pollution.

A strong shift from road to rail could also support job creation related to construction, operations and maintenance in Africa, estimated at about 258 jobs a kilometre of new rail built. For example, a 60 km urban project would create more than 15 000 direct jobs.

Alstom says the study demonstrates how increased investments in urban rail transport in Africa could deliver environmental, social and economic benefits for Africa’s growing cities.

Africa has a fast-growing population and the world’s highest urbanisation rate. 

The continent’s urban population is expected to increase from 600-million people in 2021, to more than 1.3-billion people in 2050. 

A key challenge is to ensure that this growth meets the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11, which is to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, notes the Alstom report.

“This new study shows that for this to happen, African cities must advocate to develop more sustainable transport systems, both to reduce carbon emissions and foster inclusive socioeconomic growth.

“With COP27’s focus on implementation, Alstom commissioned this study with EY Climate Change and Sustainability Services to highlight the many benefits that increased investment in urban public transport can bring to Africa’s cities, supporting their sustainable growth,” says Alstom corporate social responsibility and sustainability VP Cécile Texier.

“It is indeed demonstrated that every increase in a modal shift to rail transport will bring better access to socioeconomic opportunities, reduced congestion, increased safety and improved air quality, on top of decarbonisation.”

According to the International Energy Agency, passenger rail’s modal share has stagnated globally at around 6% to 7% for a decade, and must grow by more than 40% in the next decade for transport to remain on track to meet net zero.


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