Carbon emissions from UK rail travel lower than previously thought

Rail journey is way extra carbon environment friendly than beforehand thought, based on a rail business group that has commissioned a brand new device for calculating emissions.

The Rail Supply Group (RDG), the affiliation of prepare firms and Nationwide Rail that works to coordinate Britain’s railways, commissioned the event of the device in order that they may measure their carbon footprint correctly.

The calculator, developed by Thrust Carbon, a sustainability intelligence platform, makes use of seven units of knowledge – together with engine and gasoline kind, occupancy and carriage format, and precise journey distance – to extra precisely measure the footprint.

“The extra granular you will get with the info, the higher choices might be made,” says Equipment Brennan, founder and head of product at Thrust Carbon, who led the venture.

Beforehand the calculation had been based mostly on the UK authorities’s annual “greenhouse gasoline conversion elements for firm reporting” knowledge which includes one easy calculation – whole vitality consumed by the nationwide rail community divided by whole reported variety of passenger kilometres travelled.

On the electrified rail route from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley station, figures confirmed emissions per passenger had been 24kg/CO2e, the place CO2e is a measurement used to point out the full greenhouse gases emitted as an equal of carbon dioxide.

The primary end result from RDG’s new carbon calculator confirms this determine is definitely 12.5kg/CO2e – roughly half the earlier estimation, and 10 instances much less carbon than automobile journey or 13 instances lower than the equal flight.

The brand new calculations are a part of the rail business’s inexperienced journey pledge that goals to make journey sustainability info clearer in order that travellers could make knowledgeable decisions between transport choices comparable to airplane and automobile. This calculator can even allow companies to measure their carbon emissions from rail journey extra successfully.

“We wish to empower companies to make greener journey decisions,” mentioned Jacqueline Starr, RDG’s chief government, who plans to make detailed carbon calculations for rail routes throughout Britain accessible by the tip of the yr.

Gasoline use is a significant factor, however there are additionally operational efficiencies to contemplate, Brennan mentioned: “So, if a prepare runs however is totally empty, and also you’re breaking down your emissions on a particular prepare then maybe ticket costs must be decrease to encourage extra folks to take these trains.”

He hopes that better transparency with carbon emissions could add a component of wholesome competitors between rail operators that use the identical prepare line: “That’s good as a result of it encourages rail operators to spend money on their trains, to have newer, extra energy-efficient trains, and to foyer authorities to affect extra of the traces for a similar causes.”

Newest statistics from the Workplace of Rail and Highway present that in 2021-2022, simply 2km of observe had been electrified in Nice Britain. “Mainly HM Treasury has pulled the plug on electrification,” mentioned Richard Hebditch, UK director at Transport & Setting, an organisation that campaigns for cleaner transport throughout Europe. “This new analysis from Thrust Carbon exhibits how electrified routes are clearly miles higher for carbon financial savings, so it must be frequent sense for the federal government to have a rolling programme to affect the rail community.”

“It’s mainly silly to have so many diesel-only routes, and older, polluting trains travelling across the system,” mentioned Hebditch, who described the distinction between the outdated and new knowledge as “dramatic”. He explains that the brand new calculator is not going to solely present the variation of CO2 emissions between completely different rail routes however it will likely be doable to get a extra correct comparability between aviation and rail as properly.

“This must be a catalyst for higher understanding what’s on the railway and for exhibiting that prepare journey is absolutely good for minimal CO2,” mentioned Hebditch. “This exhibits the clear case of the environmental benefits of supporting it. Hopefully, extra [trains] will begin to be electrified, routes might be decarbonised and we’d see newer trains with regenerative breaking that put vitality again into the system.”

Clive Wratten, chief government on the Enterprise Journey Affiliation, mentioned: “We’ve heard loud and clear from our members and the enterprise journey group that consistency in carbon measurement is an crucial. This initiative from RDG on behalf of the entire rail business has the potential to supply readability and a sturdy inexperienced message to all elements of enterprise journey.”

As soon as rail carbon info is displayed at level of sale, reserving sustainable journey will likely be simpler, particularly when comparisons between rail journeys and flights are listed, Brennan mentioned. “All our instruments are about making sustainability easy,” he added.

Airplane or prepare?

A visit from Edinburgh to London on, say Monday 3 July, by prepare would begin at £59, based on Trainline. It will take upwards of 4 hours and 40 minutes, and based on Thrust Carbon, would emit about 12.5kg of CO2 per passenger

A airplane ticket from Edinburgh to London Gatwick on the identical day would begin at £65 (easyJet through Opodo) and take 1.15 hours (though that doesn’t embrace ready instances after check-in). And it could emit about 131kg of CO2.

Back To Top