Chiltern Railways' Eco-Express
Chiltern Railways introduces "plant-based" trains powered by vegetable oil in London, cutting emissions and pioneering the use of HVO on passenger trains in the UK.
Chiltern Railways used diesel trains to Marylebone station due to limited electrified lines. Now, they're adopting "hydro-treated vegetable oil" (HVO) as a greener replacement sourced from used cooking oil and recyclable waste to cut emissions and support the environment.
Environmental Impact and Benefits
By implementing HVO-powered locomotives, Chiltern Railways is significantly reducing its environmental footprint. The switch to HVO fuel results in up to a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 85% decrease in soot particulates compared to diesel. Despite being more expensive than diesel, Chiltern is committed to decarbonizing its services over the next decade, making HVO a pivotal interim measure.
Implementation and Fleet Update
Chiltern Railways has decided to use HVO on all its Class 68 locomotive-hauled trains, including the five-carriage trains running between Marylebone and Stourbridge Junction via Birmingham. This shift means that almost a quarter of Chiltern passengers will now be traveling on "green" trains. Additionally, the company plans to seek tenders for the replacement of its Class 165 trains, considering battery or battery-electric hybrid options.
Challenges and Future Prospects
Chiltern Railways faces challenges in the electrification of its lines, considering funding and potential disruptions. However, it remains open to exploring partial electrification and battery train technologies. The company's managing director, Richard Allan, emphasizes the ongoing commitment to modernizing and decarbonizing Chiltern Railways in the coming years.
Commendations and Public Response
Rail minister Huw Merriman commends Chiltern Railways for pioneering this greener fuel alternative, bringing them one step closer to achieving net-zero targets. William Tebbit, chairman of Green Biofuels, highlights the improved air quality provided by HVO. Additionally, Westminster council's call to ban diesel locomotives from Marylebone station aligns with the positive response from Tory MP Nickie Aiken, who views the introduction of vegetable oil-powered trains as a game changer.