Biodiesel trial at South West Trains

South West Trains has confirmed that it is testing the use of biodiesel on one of its trains in passenger service.

The biodiesel mix – which includes diesel, soya beans and rape seed oil – is being trialled on its Class 159 unit 007, which runs on the Exeter-Salisbury-London Waterloo route.

The trial, which started in April and runs until the end of the year, will assess the performance of the train in different seasons and determine the impact of the biodiesel mix on speed, engine efficiency and emissions.

Neil Ovenden, senior project engineer at South West Trains, said: "This trial is going well: it has made no difference whatsoever to the performance of this train.

"We are pleased to be taking part in this exercise, as we were with our trial of low-sulphur diesel a couple of years ago. It will help the industry look at the pros and cons of various fuel options and decide which ones should go forward and be implemented."

The Association of Train Operating Companies led the way on the trial, which is being monitored by the team at Salisbury Traincare Depot.

ATOC director of engineering Ian Papworth said: "Biodiesel is a relatively new fuel for the railways and one that needs to be carefully examined. ATOC is keen to explore and understand the potential of this fuel and discover its advantages and disadvantages on behalf of its members, so that they can make informed decisions on their fuel strategy."

He explained that desktop studies, static engine and now train trials to date show that railway locomotives and railcars can run successfully on the types of biofuel mix currently on the market.

"Widespread adoption will depend on a number of factors, such as pricing, taxation and, of course, the current debate on the overall sustainability of biofuel use," he said.

"The trials also help biofuel providers to develop their products, build a case and a potential market. As many of the biodiesel companies operating in this country are UK businesses, it is also helping the economy. The trials may also help industry learn and adapt to the increasing use of biodiesel and in the long run may also achieve more fuel independence for the UK."

South West Trains is part of Stagecoach Group, which is currently testing the UK's first Bio-buses as part of a ground-breaking environmental initiative that allows customers to exchange used cooking oil for discounted bus travel. Eight buses in Kilmarnock, Scotland, are running on 100 per cent biodiesel manufactured from used cooking oil and other food industry by-products.

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