Vegetable oil locomotive enters operation in the UK

Vegetable oil locomotive Chiltern Railways has put into service on July 27 the vegetable oil locomotive on its network, the first instance of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) being used in passenger service in the UK.

The operator’s Class 68 locomotive-hauled trains will be powered with this innovative fuel, derived from used cooking oils, tallows and other recyclable wastes, rather than conventional diesel, drastically reducing the impact the trains have on the environment and air quality across its network.

“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. 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,” Richard Allan, Managing Director for Chiltern Railways, said.

The 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 drop-in alternative to conventional diesel fuel, HVO contains few impurities and burns cleanly. It can reduce other emissions such as NOx and Carbon Monoxide, depending on engine type and usage.

Although HVO fuel is more expensive to buy than conventional diesel, Chiltern has decided to switch to using HVO fuel as part of its plan to modernise and decarbonise its operations through the Right Route 2030 vision. The vegetable oil locomotive is part of company’s ambitious proposal that sets out how fleet renewal and modernisation over the next decade will make journeys easier, greener and better for Chiltern customers.

All HVO fuel used by Chiltern Railways has been previously used and recycled to power part of its fleet, and the conversion is another exciting opportunity to both decarbonise and improve customer experience.

The Class 68 locomotives being fuelled with HVO haul six Mark III coaches when they are in passenger service, providing seating for more than 300 customers in a spacious interior. Chiltern has 25 of these coaches, and 89 vehicles in the Class 165 diesel fleet that is 33 years old, and 85 vehicles in the Class 168 diesel fleet that is 23 years old.


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