Chiltern Railways has started to run services powered by vegetable oil derived from used cooking oil and other recyclable waste.
It is the first time that Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) has been used for passenger services in the UK, although Freightliner has been using it to run a daily train between Southampton Docks and Crewe for months.
The fuel will be used on longer-distance Chiltern services operated by its Class 68 locomotives. The company hopes that if the trial is successful, the fuel will be extended to its fleets of diesel multiple units.
Chiltern claims that HVO can reduce cardon dioxide emissions by up to 90% and halve harmful particulate emissions, reducing nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.
HVO is more expensive than diesel, and not as widely available, so the switch has required the support of the Department for Transport.
Chiltern is part of Arriva Group, owned by Deutsche Bahn. It has five Class 68 locomotives, each hauling six Mk 3 coaches. Its much larger fleet of 89 Class 165 diesel vehicles is now 33 years old, and its 85 Class 168 vehicles are 23 years old.
It is the only train operator into a London terminus exclusively using diesel power. Its routes have no realistic prospect of electrification in the coming years, and HVO is seen as the only viable alternative to using fossil fuel into Marylebone.
To read all our magazine articles, choose from either a Digital Edition Membership from just 99p for your first month, or a Print & Digital Edition package from just £9.50 per month. Choose your Membership here