HS1 could remove 2m cars from Kent and East Sussex roads

Politicians, business leaders and environmental groups met last week to discuss the green potential of the UK’s first true high speed rail line. 

The Kent Rail ‘COP’ held its first meeting on Friday 4th March with the aim of identifying ways to encourage rider uptake on HS1, and the enormous environmental benefits this could have, with a particular focus on air quality. 

group of people inside red and gray train

The event was attended by representatives from local government, enterprise, and campaign organisations, with new independent research presented suggesting a significant reduction in car journeys in Kent and East Sussex could be achieved if the high speed rail line reaches its ‘full potential’.

In total, it is believed up to 2m cars could be taken off roads in the counties, which could mean a fall in emissions of more than 18,500 tons of CO2, or £47m in overall environmental benefits in the decade to 2035. 

Currently, 44% of CO2 emissions in Kent come from road traffic. Meanwhile, 50% of high-speed rail passengers say availability of service is a key factor in their decision to travel through the area, with around 15% of the 26million annual HS1 passengers pre-pandemic reporting they had switched from cars or planes. 

Initiatives including partnerships with universities to offer students flexi tickets and football clubs to sell fans rail and match ticket bundles were all tabled at the meeting, which took place at Ashford International rail station. 

The Kent Rail ‘COP’ has been a much-needed opportunity to address how we can decarbonise journeys, identify green ways to travel to and from stations, and fill capacity to secure future national investment. The high-speed line, connecting Ashford to London in 30 minutes, has been the basis of successful growth in the area for over 15 years. It’s a green asset that we cannot do without,’ said Damian Green, MP for Ashford. 

To understand more about the environmental impact of transport modes, revisit Environment Journal‘s feature from 2020 exploring how the footprints of road, rail, and flight are measured. 

Image credit:  Paolo Candeo



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2 years ago

Presumably runs on electricity? But where is the electricity coming from? I thought it was aimed at carrying freight rather than people? People in that area will still need cars to go shopping, for leisure, work and to take the kids to school. But getting some of the European delivery lorries off the roads ought to be a good thing for all concerned.

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