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Transporting goods is a challenge for the Brazilian economy. At the same time that it must overcome great distances, between producing poles, commerce and export areas, this route must become more friendly with the environment.
How to transport goods from thousands of non-Brazilian producers to thousands of other consumer centers, in addition to the export poles?
In the last decades, this task has been carried out on highways, something that goes against the already industrialized economies, which prioritize trains to the internal transport of long distances, reserving the means of transportantion on land for the small complementary routes. It is estimated that 10% of the final price of the grains that arrive at the consumers' table represent transport costs due to inefficient logistics.
Is it possible to change this scenario? According to a study coordinated by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), not only is it possible, but it would be highly rewarding for the country. However, this change would leverage a second challenge: how to increase the use of railroads and at the same time, make this mean of transportation more sustainable, considering the economic, social and environmental aspects?
An alternative is the electrification of the rail network, allowing trains to be moved by electricity. The benefits generated by the substitution are spread on several fronts: reducing emissions of pollutants, increasing international competitiveness with agility and greater safety in transportation, as well as reducing losses, thefts and accidents.
Electrified railroads are linked to a chain of systems ranging from the production of the energy to be used by locomotives, to the systems that transform this energy and distribute it, which can offer several benefits. One of them is the possibility that the railroad chooses to generate its own energy, being immune to the external variations of energy availability and price, reducing the risks related to the energy supply.
Another important point in relation to the generation of energy is the possibility that different sources are used, not only fossil fuels, contributing to the use of clean energy along the railroad. In the social aspect, this model also creates the possibility that the energy generated for the operation of the railroad is shared with the local population. It can also be highlighted that access to electricity for small and medium-sized cities increases the attractiveness of investments, generating more qualified jobs and increasing the comfort of local citizens.
But electrifying railways goes beyond making cargo transportation more efficient. With railroad electrification technologies, rather than transporting passengers and cargo, the structures of these routes can also lead to the power grid (electric transmission and pipelines), water, telecommunications and the internet. With this approach, railroads take on a broader role than just transporting goods, becoming authentic social, environmental and economic lines.
The cost of building an electrified railroad is greater than that of a conventional railroad, since it provides for investments in infrastructure such as generation, transmission and distribution of energy. However, it brings socioeconomic returns, such as the efficiency of transportation and access to electricity to remote regions, as well as attracting investors, resulting in local development, including the generation of more qualified jobs. And this return must be taken into account when making an investment in new railroads.
Several projects implemented in Europe with this format have already been applied and could be replicated in the country. One inspiration for new projects in the railway area are the cities. Brazilian urban transport already has examples of the use of technology in favor of more efficient and sustainable logistics models, and Siemens is an example in innovative technologies for this market.
* Source: Study of "Improvement and Development of Rail Freight Transport Systems developed by CEBDS.
Result: Higher acceleration and higher elevation speed result (TKM / loc.)*
Result: Higher initial traction effort allows stations in more higher reliefs.*
Result: Higher speeds in higher reliefs result in higher yield.*
Result: Lower specific energy consumption per quantity transported (Energy / TKM)*
Result: Enhanced energy efficiency, resulting in reduced energy costs*