In advance of the UN Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow from Sunday 31 October 2021, a partnership between Eurostar, Avanti West Coast, ProRail, NS and Youth for Sustainable Travel ran a dedicated ‘Climate Train’ from Amsterdam to Glasgow.
As well as transporting delegations and youth activists from across the continent to Glasgow for the conference, the partnership also wished to highlight how ‘carbon friendly’ rail travel is compared with other forms of transport, particularly compared with travel by air.
Eurostar published figures showing that one passenger journey between Amsterdam and London generates 8.4kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) compared with 60.7kg CO2e by air, an 86% reduction.
The concept of the Climate Train – actually two trains, a Eurostar Siemens e320 between Amsterdam and London St Pancras and an Avanti Alstom Pendolino between London Euston and Glasgow, with a short walk in between – was initiated by not-for-profit organisation Youth for Sustainable Travel and Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail.
The idea became reality thanks to the financial support of all Infrastructure managers on the route (Infrabel, SNCF Réseau, Getlink, HS1) as well as SNCB and EWS Schönau. The initiative was also supported by CER – the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, EIM – European Rail Infrastructure Managers and UIC – the International Union of Railways as part of the EU Year of Rail.
UK Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris commented: “Our railways are one of the most sustainable ways for people to travel.
“As we host the world at COP26, I’m proud that our railway is playing its part in the fight against climate change. We are committed to achieving a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring our railways continue to play a pivotal role in enabling greener, cleaner journeys for passengers.”
Jacques Damas, chief executive officer of Eurostar, said: “Pre pandemic, demand for international high-speed rail had grown consistently across two decades, as passengers increasingly recognise the benefits of train versus plane.
“As an industry, our challenge is to take this further, helping our customers lower their carbon footprint as we invest in routes, timetables and a seamless customer experience.
“The Climate Train is a symbol of partnership between rail operators and a show of commitment to meet growing customer expectations when it comes to sustainable travel.”
His opposite number at Avanti West Coast, Phil Whittingham, added: “Climate change is a serious threat to everyone on the planet and Avanti West Coast, like the wider rail industry, is committed to cleaner, greener transport for all.
“By uniting with operators across the continent, the Climate Train’s journey illustrates the ease of travelling between countries providing customers with a sustainable alternative.
“But our commitment goes beyond COP26. For example, in the next few years we will be replacing our diesel only trains with a combination of electric and bi-mode trains that will substantially reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.”
To mark the departure of the Climate Train, rail partners across Continental Europe have signed a message to COP26 – pledging to remain the most sustainable form of motorised transport, with a call for greater support for international rail routes in order to accelerate growth in sustainable travel.
Train operators in Britain also support the UK government’s commitment to deliver a net zero railway network by 2050, which research shows could create almost 6,000 long-term jobs, and to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040.