Are trains good for the environment?

When you need to travel doing it in the way that causes the least emissions is the most responsible way to travel. That is where trains have the advantage over other forms of transport which covers long distances, such as car or planes. Per passenger train travel causes fewer emissions than car or plane travel and therefore can be said to be good for the environment.

In 2019 LNER replaced its old fleet of diesel high speed trains (HST). These were designed in an era where line electrification was not available, and the importance of the environmental impacts was not widely understood. The replacement of the HST’s for our Azuma trains in 2019 enabled LNER to remove unnecessary diesel consumption across the line where an overhead electrical supply is available. This means that trains destined for destinations north of Edinburgh for the first time can run on electric mode from King’s Cross to Edinburgh and then switch to diesel to complete the remainder of the journey where electrification is not available. The carbon intensity of national grid electricity is continually reducing. This means that while we may not have reduced energy consumption through the switch from HST’s, we have transitioned to a cleaner energy source.

The UK government has a target to achieve Net Zero by 2050, the drive to this target will see a further reduction in grid electricity carbon intensity as lower and zero carbon energy sources come online (e.g. wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, biomass, anaerobic digestion).

Our new trains bring new technology. Our fleet of electric and bi-mode Azuma trains which incorporate regenerative braking. This means energy is captured through the braking process which otherwise would have been lost. Sensors within the train automatically place the carriages into low power mode when the train is idle, and no movement has been detected.

While trains have a lower carbon footprint than domestic flights and car travel, here at LNER we are working with internal and external stakeholders to continually improve the efficiency of our operations in terms of energy and running on time.