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The Environmental Impact of Rail Strikes

The transportation industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 28% of all emissions in the United States. The rail system, which is considered one of the most sustainable modes of transportation, plays a critical role in reducing these emissions. However, with recent rail strikes happening around the world, the environmental impact of these strikes has become a concern. In this blog post, we will explore how rail strikes are impacting the environment.

What are Rail Strikes?

Rail strikes occur when railway workers go on strike to protest against their employers’ policies. The strikes can lead to a halt in rail transportation, disrupting the flow of goods and people across the country. The impact of rail strikes can be felt by all sectors of the economy, including businesses and commuters who rely on the railway system.

The Environmental Impact of Rail Strikes

Rail transportation is considered to be one of the most environmentally-friendly modes of transportation due to its low greenhouse gas emissions. However, the environmental impact of rail strikes can be significant. One of the main ways in which rail strikes impact the environment is through increased traffic on the roads. With the railway system down, many people turn to road transportation as an alternative, leading to an increase in traffic congestion and air pollution.

The carbon footprints per kilometre of different modes of travel

Walking, cycling, or using the train are generally the most efficient ways to travel. Taking a flight or driving alone are the most carbon-intensive options. Between the two, which is better depends on the distance travelled – for longer distances, flying is the better option

In addition, the disruption in the rail system can cause delays and cancellations of shipments, leading to a shift to alternative modes of transportation. This can result in an increase in emissions as goods are shipped via less environmentally-friendly modes of transportation such as trucks and airplanes. These alternative modes of transportation are not only less sustainable, but they also contribute to increased air pollution, traffic congestion, and noise pollution.

Moreover, rail strikes can also impact the environment by affecting the energy efficiency of the railway system. When the railway system is shut down for a prolonged period, it can cause the trains to require more energy to get back up to speed, resulting in increased emissions. Additionally, the electricity used to power the railway system is wasted when the trains are not running, further contributing to the environmental impact of rail strikes.

Mitigating the Environmental Impact of Rail Strikes

While the environmental impact of rail strikes cannot be completely eliminated, there are ways to mitigate their effects. One approach is to invest in alternative modes of transportation such as electric buses, carpooling, and cycling. These modes of transportation produce fewer emissions and can help reduce the amount of traffic on the roads during rail strikes.

A Stagecoach owned electric bus in Cambridgeshire, Great Britain

A Stagecoach owned electric bus in Cambridgeshire, Great Britain

Another approach is to invest in the development of alternative energy sources for the railway system. For example, investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can help reduce the amount of energy wasted during rail strikes. Additionally, these sources of energy are more sustainable than traditional sources such as coal and natural gas.


Rail strikes can have a significant impact on the environment, leading to increased traffic congestion, emissions, and energy waste. While these strikes may be inevitable, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate their environmental impact. By investing in alternative modes of transportation and renewable energy sources, we can work towards reducing the environmental impact of rail strikes and creating a more sustainable future.

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