Scotland’s Railway on track for net zero emissions by 2035

The United Nations is encouraging countries to take action to protect our environment.

This worldwide awareness includes rail networks, with Scotland’s Railway having a big part to play in reducing the industry’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2035.

ScotRail and its partners are already making rail healthier by assisting in the fight against climate change and, the numbers from the train operator are impressive.

Between 2014 and 2019 Scotland’s Railway electrified 325km of the country’s central railway network. This investment supported the introduction of a new £370m fleet of 70 faster, greener, modern electric trains, the class 385 built by Hitachi, with 44 per cent more capacity for customers.

These trains are cutting carbon emissions by over 10,000 tonnes a year, which is the equivalent of taking 2,238 cars off the road every year, or planting 5,138,151 trees across the fleet’s expected 30 year lifetime.

More than 76 per cent of passenger and 45 per cent of freight journeys are already electrified on Scotland’s Railway, and rail is already the most sustainable mode of public transport, contributing only one per cent of Scotland’s overall transport carbon emissions.

The difficulties posed in the route clearance of structures to ensure there is sufficient headroom to run the electric wires under bridges and through tunnels is a major challenge.

Around 90 structures needed to be rebuilt or significantly altered to support electrification works across Scotland, including bespoke systems introduced through Winchburgh and Queen Street tunnels.

There are a number of other ways Scotland’s Railway will play a leading role towards net zero.

  • All diesel trains will be taken out of service over the next 15 years through the decarbonisation of the rail infrastructure.
  • There are projects currently underway to do this on lines around Glasgow such as East Kilbride and Barrhead, creating more sustainable journeys and stations.
  • ScotRail has introduced a fuel additive that is projected to deliver a three per cent reduction in fleet diesel usage with further associated savings in carbon and nitrous oxides.
  • A plan to deliver Scotland’s first net zero carbon station at Falkirk High.
  • Encourage a shift from road to rail freight; one freight train carrying 560 tonnes of goods is the equivalent of almost 70 HGV road trips.
  • Introduction of hydrogen and battery trains over the next 14 years.
  • Investing in biodiversity schemes which have resulted in ScotRail-owned land being developed to include native wildflower meadows, orchards, ponds and bird and bug houses. Field voles and hedgehogs have now been found at one depot.

David Lister, ScotRail Safety, Sustainability & Asset Director, said:

“Rail is already the most sustainable mode of public transport, but, there’s no doubt a cleaner and greener network is something we should all be working towards.

“Our Decarbonisation Action Plan aims to eliminate carbon emissions completely by 2035 and we are well on track to achieving that ambitious target.”

Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland Director of Rail, said:

“We have made real strides in recent years towards electrifying Scotland’s Railway, which is making a genuine contribution towards reaching our decarbonisation targets.

“World Environment Day offers us a real opportunity to reflect on the progress made to date, as we look to build a green recovery moving forward through and beyond the challenges of the global pandemic.”

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