Chiltern Railways begin running passenger trains on recycled vegetable oil

Less than two weeks after train operator Chiltern Railways unveiled its ‘Right Route to 2030 vision’, setting out how they intend to deliver greener and better rail services over the next decade, they have become the first passenger operator in the UK to run their trains on Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).

HVO fuel is made almost entirely from used cooking oils and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% and air particulates by 85%. A fossil free replacement for conventional diesel fuel, HVO contains few impurities and burns cleanly. It can also reduce other emissions such as NOx and Carbon Monoxide, depending on engine type and usage.   

The downside is that it’s more expensive to buy than conventional diesel but, despite this, Chiltern decided to switch to as part of its plan to modernise and decarbonise its operations through their Right Route 2030 vision. 

Right Route 2030 was developed following research commissioned by Chiltern, that confirmed their customers, stakeholders and colleagues wanted Chiltern to modernise the network with a new fleet of trains. The Office of Rail and Road’s latest statistics show that Chiltern has the third oldest trains by operator, with an average age of 28.9 years. 

Richard Allan, Managing Director for Chiltern Railways, said:  ’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.’

All the HVO fuel used by Chiltern Railways has been previously used and subsequently recycled to power class 68 locomotives which haul six coaches when they are in passenger service, providing seating for more than 300 passengers. 

Richard Allan continued:  ’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. 

‘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.’ 

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.’

William Tebbit, Chairman of Green Biofuels, said:  ’Our HVO allows diesel train fleets across the railway network to enjoy a greener drop-in alternative instead of diesel. This is crucial when you think of the air quality issues when trains are in stations and built-up areas. GBF is already supplying HVO to the rail freight sector and is delighted to now be supplying passenger trains.  Passengers, train and station staff can now enjoy much better air quality.’


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