The weight of rolling stock can be reduced with improved design and by replacing existing mechanical control systems with electronic fly-by-wire systems. By increasing each wagon’s load factor (payload of the wagon as a proportion of the total gross mass) fuel savings can be achieved.

Application relevance

Local rolling stock manufacturers are available to design wagons that result in reduced tare mass. This has a positive effect on fuel efficiency by increasing wagon freight capacity (i.e. reduced fuel consumed to move each wagon).

Weight reduction would normally be achieved across a large number of wagons. The procurement process will occupy at least a year and long lead times on materials are likely to extend manufacture beyond two years.

Potential benefits

No case study information is available to demonstrate fuel savings from weight reduction. However, a positive effect on fuel efficiency on a per-tonne-freight-carried basis is expected. While load factors may improve, weight reduction can impact on the strength of each wagon and reduce safety.

Key implementation considerations

Freight cars used in carload service have much lower productivity (annual loaded miles) than those used in unit-train service. This means any given innovation will yield a much higher return on investment from unit-train cars than from carload-service cars. This limits the opportunities to apply fuel-saving technologies to cars used in mixed freight.

Examples of implementation

EU Transport GHG:Routes to 2050 (Technical paper 3)

This paper provides references to a number of studies and summaries key opportunities in reducing the mass of rolling stock to improve fuel consumption (Hazeldine et al. 2009).

For the full report on fuel efficiency opportunities in the road and rail sectors, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.