New HS2 rolling stock concept

HS2 trains will run solely on zero-carbon energy

Image credit: Alstom and Hitachi Rail

HS2 Ltd has revealed that the railway network’s new trains will all be powered exclusively by zero-carbon energy when they start operating.

This commitment is part of broader aims to make the project net-zero carbon from 2035, with targets of diesel-free construction sites and major reductions in carbon emissions from the steel and concrete used to build the railway.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said the decision would help the government fulfil its climate ambitions including a greener transport network.

The first diesel-free construction sites are expected sometime this year, while carbon emissions from the steel and concrete used in the project will be reduced by 50 per cent by 2030 compared with 2021 levels.

To help achieve this, HS2 is collaborating with research organisations to accelerate innovation in low-carbon technologies such as alternative fuels and renewable energy.

A major trade union criticised the government last week for failing to ensure that HS2 was using steel made in the UK.

Mark Thurston, HS2 CEO said: “HS2 Ltd is completely committed to reducing our carbon emissions as we design, build and operate the new railway.

“We’ve ensured that tackling climate change is an essential feature of all areas of our work - in design, in early works, and throughout major construction, allowing the project to build towards net zero from 2035.

“The new targets announced today demonstrate the significant role HS2 will play in addressing the climate challenge, by providing a low carbon, long-distance transport solution and leading the construction sector to drive down carbon emissions.”

HS2 Ltd added that where it could not entirely reduce carbon emissions, it would use natural or technological methods to offset the remaining carbon.

The first phase of HS2 from London to Birmingham is scheduled to open between 2029 and 2033.

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) welcomed the publication of HS2’s Net Zero Carbon Plan.

RIA policy director Kate Jennings said: “It is good to see HS2 Ltd committing to being zero carbon from the very first day trains run. This commitment shows how an already environmentally-friendly rail project can lead the way and go even further in supporting the UK’s Net Zero agenda, whilst also supporting investment and jobs.

“HS2 will need the support of the rail supply community if it is to deliver its Net Zero Carbon Plan, and rail businesses across the country, including RIA members big and small, are ready to meet this challenge head on, ultimately supporting a new green railway for the UK.”

Kathryn Brown, director of climate action for The Wildlife Trusts said: “It’s good to hear positive ambitions for HS2, because so far the construction has caused only damage and destruction of nature.”

She added: “Promising low-carbon travel is vital, but not if that comes at the expense of the natural world.

“We can’t build our way out of the climate crisis, and the Government has made it clear that restoring nature and natural processes is needed at an unprecedented scale.

“When it comes to the nature emergency, so far HS2 has only made things worse.”

A report from 2020 found that the construction of HS2 would destroy and divide hundreds of wildlife sites and nature reserves – including 108 ‘irreplaceable’ ancient woodlands.

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