How Carbon Neutral are British Trains?

The spectacular launch of the carbon neutral Eurostar train prompted thoughts and questions about the fuelling of British trains. As if by magic the answer appeared the next day in a letter by the Chief Executive of Network Rail. He writes that by choosing diesel instead of electric trains, Britain is ignoring the environmental benefits as well as wasting good money . He says that the government's failure to electrify more lines is "very short-sighted". One study found that it would be better to drive than use diesel trains because of the pollution emitted. Ministers have admitted that on some local lines diesel trains are less efficient than 4X4s because they are often empty. A former Transport Secretary said that “if ten or fewer people travel in a Sprinter (diesel), it would be less environmentally damaging to give them each a Land Rover Freelander to drive."

Britain is one of the few countries that continues to use diesel with only 39% of its train network being electrified. The differences in emissions are big: now the best electric trains emit 40g of CO2 per passenger-kilometre compared with 112 g for diesel. The government is planning to spend £1Billion on a new fleet of diesel trains that will emit twice the amount of carbon dioxide as electric trains. They say that uncertainty about how energy will be generated in the future (nuclear is a very controversial and unresolved issue) has made them defer decisions for another 5 years. :: Times

Related Content on