Transportation & Fuel Source Technology
Virgin Trains Leads Europe with Biodiesel Train
Sir Richard Branson and Gordon Brown have launched Europe's first biodiesel blend train in scheduled passenger service - this was the 11:27 from London Euston to Llandudno, North Wales.
In advance of the launch the Chancellor of the Exchequer said: "I want Britain to be a world leader in the development and use of environmentally-friendly fuels, and I believe they will play a fundamental part in our efforts to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. I wish Virgin every success with these pilot schemes and I look forward to hearing the results."
The train is the first in Europe to use a practicable blended fuel which can significantly reduce CO2 emissions. The Virgin Trains trial is a major step in a national biodiesel programme, conducted by Virgin Trains, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB), to pioneer a sustainable fuel breakthrough for the rail industry.
As part of a national trial, Virgin Trains will run one of its Voyagers on a 20 percent biodiesel blend. Sir Richard explained how this can help reduce emissions: "This is a pioneering step we're taking. If the trial is a success - and we believe it will be - and we can convert our Voyager fleet to run on B20 biodiesel we could cut our CO2 emissions by up to 14 percent*. This means 34,500 tonnes less CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere each year, and is equivalent to taking 23,000 cars off the road. Government wants to see a reduction in transport's carbon dioxide emissions, and Virgin and the rail industry are at the forefront. We're starting with 20 percent biodiesel and hope to increase this amount to 100 percent in the future which would potentially see 100,000 cars off the road."
Virgin CrossCountry Managing Director Chris Gibb said: "Sir Richard set out a vision that Virgin should be at the forefront of developing sustainable energy. I am really proud that it is the people at Virgin Trains who are the first to have risen to the challenge."
As part of the investment in biodiesel special fuelling points have been installed at Bombardier Transportation's depots in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire and Crofton, West Yorkshire and modifications have been made to the Cummins' engines. During the trial the biodiesel train will run across much of Britain, from Birmingham to Scotland, in South Wales, North East England, the North West, Lake District, West Country, the South West and South Coast.
If the trial is a success the current higher duty on biodiesel would mean changes to duty levels would be required for a viable conversion of the fleet to biodiesel operation. The Treasury has made an important concession for this trial, but beyond this the duty rate would be 54.68p per litre - considerably more than the 7.69p per litre duty paid by the rail industry for diesel - and would require legislation to change.
In addition to the environmental benefits of the Voyager trial, Virgin's Pendolino electric trains return 17 percent of the power they use to the national grid every time they brake, making the Pendolino fleet one of the most efficient in the world. Over the course of a year this is enough to power 11,825 homes. These trains emit 76 percent less CO2 than cars or domestic flights.
The trial also forms part of Virgin Group's vision to use clean-fuel technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Virgin Atlantic has ordered 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which are 27 percent more fuel efficient than its current fleet, and will begin testing biofuel in 2008. Overall the Virgin Group has already contributed $200m of its pledged $3bn to developing sustainable energy. Virgin Fuels has already constructed three ethanol plants which are cheaper and greener than standard corn-to-ethanol plants, as they substantially reduce the need for fossil fuels in ethanol production.
Over ten years Virgin Trains
has developed the West Coast and CrossCountry franchises into high quality networks, offering a green alternative to air and car travel. Passenger numbers are now at 43 million a year and punctuality is currently running at well over 85 percent on both routes. But it doesn't stop there. In December 2008 there will be faster journeys on London services, with almost one third more trains running. Virgin Trains also hopes to be able to run trains at 135mph and add two more coaches to Pendolino trains, encouraging millions more people out of their cars and off domestic flights.
One hundred percent of any profits made by Virgin Group
through its train and plane companies for the next 10 years will be invested into developing clean fuels.
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