UK Passenger Trains Powered By Biofuel For The First Time
DRAX POWER STATION, UK - JUNE 22, 2022. Aerial view of a freight train and wagons delivering renewable biomass fuel instead of coal to Drax Power Station in the UK to reduce air pollution and emissions

The first passenger trains in the UK to be fully powered by a biofuel have run on the Chiltern Railway service between Birmingham and London. The BBC reports that the trains were fuelled by hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) which is mainly made from used cooking oils. 

HVO is a more environmentally friendly fuel compared with diesel, reducing greenhouse emissions by up to 90%. It is also a sustainable resource that is derived from recyclable waste, including used cooking oil and tallows (rendered fats from cattle and sheep), and other waste.

Although HVO is currently more expensive than diesel, Richard Allan, Managing Director for Chiltern Railways, has stated that it will be used as part of its plans to decarbonise its fleet of trains by 2030. The UK government has set a target to completely phase out diesel-only trains by 2040. 

Allan commented:  “We are determined to operate a railway that is easier, greener, and better for our customers. The conversion of a key part of our fleet of trains to HVO fuel will make a big difference in terms of emissions.”

He added: “We have listened to customers and stakeholders who rightly highlighted air quality as a key concern to us, and have taken action to minimise the impact on the environment that these trains have through cleaner, greener fuel.”

“This is a strong step in the right direction, and we want to do more. In the next few days, we will be inviting train manufacturers for proposals for new trains to replace our oldest diesel trains.”

Rail Minister Huw Merriman, said: “Trains are already one of the greenest ways to travel, and we want to build on this further by creating a rail industry that helps us achieve our ambitious net zero targets and delivers even more benefits for passengers.”

He added: “A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% is an incredible achievement that gets us one step closer to realising these and I commend Chiltern on pioneering this fuel.” 

The pioneering train service will run out of Marylebone Station in London via Wembley stadium, and reach Oxford, Bicester Village, Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham. The fuel is a direct replacement, meaning that no adaptation or alteration of the diesel engine is required.

Nickie Aiken, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said: “It’s so important we all can breathe clean air, so I’ve been working with local people living around Marylebone to push Chiltern Railways to end their reliance on diesel-only trains.”

“Chiltern Railways certainly recognise the issue so many of us face, and I’m pleased they’re pioneering new, innovative solutions such as HVO-fuel to do their bit to help clean up Marylebone’s air.” 

Allen commented that Chiltern Railway were also exploring electric battery trains and partial electrification as other carbon cutting measures. 

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