Monday, May 26, 2008

Trains and the Environment

While trains do offer a necessary service because they haul materials and people, there are plenty of concerns about the damages they do to the environment. As with any other type of industry there seems to be controversy about where to draw the line. People in society definitely want the benefits that come with trains transporting goods and people but are they willing to sacrifice the quality of the air they breath in order to have it?

The biggest concern with trains and the environment is the amount of pollution they create. Designs have come a long way on train engines in order to reduce the amount of pollution they release. Many railway companies also continue to plant new trees in the areas along the train tracks. These trees help to remove the amount of carbon monoxide in the air. You may have seen pretty flower gardens next to train crossings and they are there to help the environment as well as to give you something nice to enjoy as you drive by.

Another type of pollution that trains are labeled with is noise pollution. People who live in areas where trains frequently pass through often complain about the noise. This is one of the biggest issues that has to be dealt with when a railway company is considering laying new railroad tracks.

Businesses complain about the noise level as well because they feel it often affects productivity and it can be annoying to potential customers and prevent them from coming in. Changes are being implemented by many railway companies to reduce the amount of noise and vibrations that come from the trains.

Trains consume large amounts of natural resources that can’t be replaced. This is a concern because so many trains are in operation each day. Alternatives for creating the necessary energy are being evaluated. Some of the commuter trains in many cities operate on electricity instead of diesel fuel. While this helps reduce the amount of pollution in the air, it still depletes the natural resources we have available.

However, research has shown that mass transit services such as trains in large cities significantly reduces the amount of pollution in the air because it removes so many individual cars from the roads each day. Instead of thousands of people using their own vehicle to commute to and from work they all ride the same train transit system.

Environmentalists become very upset when forests and other land areas are cleared in order to lay new stretches of railway tracks. While the additional routes help get materials and people to their destinations, it removes trees and robs animals of their natural habitat. Most railways do all they can to live the area intact and to only remove what is necessary for the train to get through the area.

Railway companies are often accused of wasting materials that have to be dealt with. In the past couple of decades though most railway companies have become quite conservative with their materials. The steel they use for the railroad tracks and trains is recycled. They also reuse up to 60% of the ballast that is placed underneath the railway tracks.

The Federal government keeps a close eye on the activities of all the various railway companies. They understand they are an essential piece of keeping our economy strong, but they expect the railway companies to do their part for the environment as well. New areas of technology are continue implemented in order to benefit the railway companies and the environment.

It is important to understand that it takes time to develop such changes though. Research has to be conducted to measure the actual benefits that will be offered. The research is very expensive and implementing the changes is expensive as well. The railways struggle to offer low prices for passengers as well as hauling freight, but as their own expenses continue to increase with efforts to protect the environment a large portion of those expenses will be trickling down.

No comments: