Back to the Future?

25 per cent carbon cut  – but surely  zero-carbon means 100 per cent less!

Northern is looking to order about 20 new trains with reduced CO2 emissions – possibly to use on Bradford-Huddersfield and Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester-Wigan trains on our line. As we understand it these would be diesel-battery hybrids, similar in design to the Class 195s now used on our York, Leeds, Manchester, Chester and Blackpool trains. We understand they would have diesel engines (that’s right) and electric transmission so energy recovered in electric braking could be used to recharge the batteries. This regenerative braking, coupled perhaps with other efficiency-increasing measures would, it is thought, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25%.

So this is not zero carbon! A quarter of the way there sounds about as advanced as hybrid cars introduced 20 years ago. Zero-carbon must mean a 100 per cent cut!

The idea seems to be that the trains would run on routes close to the TransPennine Route Upgrade Huddersfield line, which (we are informed by the rail minister) is to be fully electrified. So you would think the trains would be able to run on energy supplied by the overhead, say from Leeds to Mirfield and from Bradley into Huddersfield. From what we have seen so far that seems not to be the case.

Or could the trains be “plug-in hybrids” that can be charged at stations? Or maybe converted later with pantographs to run on overhead electric and charge when under the wires? Hybrids are (as we tried to explain to the rail minister) less energy efficient than pure electrics but could be a step on the way.

What is proposed seems more a case of “back to the future”. But good on Northern for taking what could transformed into a strategic step.

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