Eurostar reports environmental progress

Train operator Eurostar has published its first Tread Lightly Report, revealing progress towards achieving its environmental targets.

Higher load factors and a switch of electricity supply in the Channel Tunnel have chiefly contributed to a cut of more than a quarter (31 per cent) in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per passenger journey, compared with 2007. The company has now raised its target to a 35 per cent saving by 2012.

Eurostar runs high-speed passenger services between Britain and northern Europe, running through the Channel Tunnel. It was influential persuading tunnel operator Eurotunnel to switch to a supplier of French nuclear electricity.

The Tread Lightly plan was published in April 2007 and included a target of cutting CO2 emissions by 25 per cent (now 35 per cent) per passenger journey by 2012 and a 10-point plan to reduce all other environmental impacts.

At the same time, the company made a commitment to neutralise the carbon from all passenger journeys from the date when it moved its London terminal to St Pancras International (14 November 2007), by offsetting them through investment in projects that reduce the same amount of CO2. Since then, travellers who have switched from plane to train have reduced the emissions from their journeys by an estimated 40,000 tonnes of CO2 compared with if they had made their journeys by air.

Progress on the 10-point plan has included big increases in waste recycling at Eurostar's UK maintenance depot and reductions in waste sent to landfill from other sites, as well as the introduction of biodegradable and recyclable crockery and cutlery on board, but progress on dealing with waste from trains has been slower than expected because of the number of parties involved and varying procedures at different stations.

Efforts to address energy use in buildings have included developing a 'switch-off' culture and changing to greener tariffs. St Pancras has been enabled to power down information terminals at night, while new lighting has been installed at Ashford International station and car park. There have been energy audits at the Brussels office and station and reduced lighting is being investigated for the Paris terminal.

On the trains themselves, a metering exercise showed that by far the greatest influence on energy consumption was driving style, but the company is making other changes too. Air-conditioning refrigerants are being replaced with less environmentally-damaging types, though performance issues have kept this programme behind schedule. Crews are being encouraged to set half-lighting as the default, and a wiring change is being introduced so that ceiling lights come on ahead of window lights. This is not only more efficient but is preferred by passengers, as it makes it easier to see out at night. And - on the principle that even small changes are worth doing - the old red tail-lights are being replaced with LED versions.

Although Eurostar has achieved its initial target for reducing CO2 emissions per journey earlier than expected, it foresees a modest reversal this year as a result of the economic downturn, which means that trains are likely to be less full.

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