Eurostar – ‘carbon neutral’ inaugural journey from its new station, St Pancras.

On November 14th 2007 Eurostar will start operating out of their new station at St Pancras. They have teamed up with Friends of the Earth for a big party over at Paris and are claiming a carbon neutral journey.

How could that be I hear you ask. My thoughts exactly. As they have decided to invite moi along to celebrate the launch of their services from St Pancras to Paris, I thought it only right and proper to go along and investigate. I mean, it would be rude to pass up a free ride across to see our continental brothers.

FOE are holding a wee do at the Pompidou centre. Trains being my favourite way to travel and with my little boy being completely nuts about trains himself I have taken it upon myself, as a duty, to fufill such a journey of discovery. As you can see I will go to any lengths to provide you with accurate reporting from the frontline, as it were.

I will of course report back to you all about the neutrality of said journey.


Paris, Gare du Nord, awaits.

Part of Eurostar promotional material: From 14 November, all Eurostar journeys will be carbon neutral, at no extra cost to travellers. This is part of Eurostar’s Tread Lightly initiative, which includes a target of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 25% per passenger journey by 2012.

So how is Eurostar aiming to go ‘carbon neutral’? This from their website;

Eurostar will achieve a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions per passenger journey by 2012 by:
• Installing energy meters on trains to help drivers drive as economically as possible
• Fitting new controls for train lighting, heating and air-conditioning to reduce power consumption
• Working with suppliers, particularly Eurotunnel and Network Rail, to source cleaner electricity supplies
• Making even better use of train capacity
• Designing energy efficiency into the mid-life re-engineering of the train fleet

Whilst CO2 emissions from generating the electricity that powers the trains are overwhelmingly Eurostar’s largest environmental impact, the business is also committing to a 10-point plan to reduce all other impacts.

Where Eurostar cannot eliminate CO2 emissions, it will invest in offsetting schemes as a last resort to ensure that every traveller’s journey is carbon neutral. Eurostar will work with a number of environmental organisations to deliver transparent, effective and appropriate offsetting schemes.


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12 Responses to Eurostar – ‘carbon neutral’ inaugural journey from its new station, St Pancras.

  1. Pete Smith says:

    This from a Eurostar press release in April:

    “Eurostar has also announced that from 14 November 2007, when it launches 23-25 minute shorter journeys from its new central London terminal at St Pancras International, it will become the world’s first rail service – and the world’s largest mass transport operator – to go ‘carbon neutral’.

    Where Eurostar cannot eliminate CO2 emissions, it will invest in offsetting schemes as a last resort to ensure that every traveller’s journey is carbon neutral. Eurostar will work with a number of environmental organisations to deliver transparent, effective and appropriate offsetting schemes.

    Richard Brown [Eurostar CEO] added: “Unlike other transport operators, who ask passengers to volunteer to offset CO2 emissions at their own expense, we will bear the cost of making every journey carbon neutral – we will not charge a penny extra.”

    See if you can find what offset schemes they’re going to use Matt. Th recent love-in at Waterloo with Tony Juniper suggests they’ll be taking advice from FoE. Since FoE have a decidedly jaundiced view of offset schemes in general, it makes me wonder what advice they’ll give.

  2. matt says:

    It is intriguing. I’m obviously looking forward to this little adventure. I’m sure they’ve done their homework. We are after all in a city that is becoming one of the major centres for environmental initiatives in the world. In other words, there are plenty of people around who have the knowledge and interest to scrutinize this to the core.

    The carbon neutral angle obviously works well as a competitive sales approach, especially considering all the furore over air travel pollution of late. And lets not forget the recent Heathrow airport protests over the summer.

    Here’s the Daily Mail’s comparison on times & costs between train & plane, from London to Paris;

  3. earthpal says:

    What fuel does Eurostar use to run its train? Are they going to switch to biofuel because as we know, that’s not without it’s downside? Where are they going to source their lower energy from? Will it include nuclear? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to nit-pick. I just want to be sure. It would be great if they switched to clean renewables that have no wider implications.

    As you may know, I share the FoE stance on offsetting and I too will be interested to hear what they have to say by way of advice.

    Other than that, this is all very positive and encouraging progress and they are to be commended for their efforts, especially their in-house plans.

    Matty, I envy you. Good luck. Looking forward to hearing your reports.

  4. matt says:

    Thanks EP. I seem to be getting that reaction everywhere, including my line manager!

    I’m hoping FoE will shed a little more light on the claim already being made for carbon neutral journeys because to me, if I read Eurostar’s literature correctly, they seem to imply that their organisation is actually working towards carbon neutrally and that their 10 point plan is a part of this. Not that the journey on November 14th will be carbon neutral just yet.

    These are probably aspirations that carry a useful marketing angle, inviting passengers along for the ride … as it were. 🙂 Getting all employees on board for the 10 point plan could also help provide Eurostar with a positive working atmosphere. A bonus for the HR dept.

    Interesting to see their site also claim that a train journey is ten times less polluting than an equivalent one taken by plane. I didn’t know it was as good as that.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Eurostar haven’t been as clear as they might have been. As I read it, their ‘Tread Lightly’ initiative aims to reduce their operating emissions by 25% by 2012. The 10 point plan is part of ‘Tread Lightly’, with reduce/reuse/recycle actions . The ‘carbon neutral’ bit is intended to offset any emissions left over. Eurostar say: “from November 14th 2007, Eurostar is proud to offer carbon neutral journeys”, so that sounds as if it’s kicking off right away.

    They’re a bit coy about the source of their figures for flight/train comparisons. I suspect Eurostar comes out better than expected because it’s compared with short-haul flights where take-off and landing make a greater contribution to total emissions.

  6. matt says:

    Indeed, a bit of R&R ….. and R, as it were. I wonder if my children’s school should be claiming ‘carbon neutrality’. Reduce, reuse, recycle is one of their mantras and we do put it into practice too!

  7. Thanks for the interesting post & debate that’s followed. Just to clarify – carbon neutral journeys will start on November 14 (the same day St Pancras opens) and that carbon neutrality is being met by both cutting operating emissions by 25%, and offsetting what remains.

    As for our current emission measures, the figures concerned are available to peruse on our website here and is the result of independent research by consultants Paul Watkiss Associates and AEA Technology Environment. It was commissioned by Eurostar but operated under an entirely independent remit. More details are available here. Hope this helps.

  8. matt says:

    Thanks Chris. Will follow up on your links.

  9. Brian says:

    Looking at St Pancras from overhead the new extension reminds me of a gigantic solar panel. Surely such a huge expanse of flat roof could be used for solar energy collection and conversion to reduce their energy demand even further. This could be extended to other large buildings as well as dwellings in London.

  10. matt says:

    I had exactly the same thought. I’ll ask Chris over at Eurostar who has contributed to this discussion already. However I’m guessing Eurostar Ltd don’t have a lot of say regards the station itself.

  11. Edith Robson says:

    How can Eurostar claim carbon neutrality for all of their destinations? Ebbsfleet is only accessible by road (as is Calais Frétun). One million passengers are projected driving into the busiest road network in the UK with many long delays. I reckon my increased carbon output (if I could drive there) would be one tonne per annum. Is this not contrary to all of the GOvernment’s ‘green’ aspirations?

  12. matt says:

    Interesting point but of course not Eurostar’s responsibility to be fair. The UK is stuck it appears with the privitisation model that the Tories put through for the break-up of the national rail network just before they last got kicked out of power.

    Labour have reversed some aspects of this but passengers are still left with the highest rail fares in Europe and some of the worst conditions for rail travel. Even with car and fuel costs at the level they are car travel is still unfortunately cheaper, not taking into account the environmental costs of course.

    The public transport situation is a farce in the UK. Quite what can be done about this without a revoltuion in politics is hard to fathom!

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