The train is considered to be the climate-friendly means of transport of the future.

Politicians encourage them to the best of their ability.

Next year, more money from the budget of the Federal Ministry of Transport is to flow into the railways than into the road.

This has not happened in 70 years.

Niklas Záboji

Business correspondent in Paris

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But rails and trains do not fall from the sky either. They have to be built, and that consumes resources. The new Wendlingen-Ulm line built in the course of Stuttgart 21 runs 60 kilometers through eleven tunnels. The new line even counts 37 bridges. This requires steel, concrete and gravel. The maintenance of the existing infrastructure also requires resources.

Klaus Radermacher therefore didn't quite trust the roast in the summer of 2019, when the railway advanced to become a major climate protector around the “Fridays for Future” protests.

The computer scientist, who initially worked at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and later in the private sector, complained about the emotionally charged culture of discussion.

"A systematic analysis very quickly shows that the environmental friendliness of the railways begins to shake if you also take into account the rail infrastructure and its climate balance," said Radermacher in a letter to the FAZ at the time

Huge footprint

A daring thesis. But the computer scientist, born in 1962, found a hearing and recently wrote a 40-page study on behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The Institute for Mobility at the University of St. Gallen supported him in this. A conclusion of the study: "Due to the immense CO2 pollution for road and junction infrastructure, the rail transport system turns out to be significantly less environmentally friendly than is commonly assumed." It is not enough just to look at the climate impact of the drive. There is no doubt that the railways do better than cars, ships and planes. But not if you look at the entire infrastructure. Then, above all, the vilified plane does well. No wonder: once lifted off, the machines float through the air free of roads and rails.

Radermacher illustrates the ecological rucksack that Deutsche Bahn is shouldering with the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, among other things. A total of 152 kilometers of tunnel tubes were built there, which required 4 million cubic meters of concrete, 1.3 million tons of cement, 125,000 tons of steel arches, 16,000 tons of reinforcing steel and 3 million square meters of steel mesh. Then there is the material for the rails. And even then, the consideration is not completely holistic, because the emissions from the construction of the tunnel boring machines and their transport as well as removal including the arrival and departure of thousands of workers to the construction site must also be included in the calculation. With an estimated at least 4 million tons of CO2, the footprint is enormous before the first train could even pass through the Gotthard tunnel.