Great Northern trains save energy and reduce carbon

Great Northern's Class 717 trains have saved 4,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions and generated 17 million kWh in the last year.

Great Northern’s 25 new Class 717 trains, which run between London Moorgate and Stevenage, Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City, have already generated enough electricity through their brakes to power the equivalent of all the households of Welwyn and Hatfield Borough for a month, potentially saving more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Under regenerative braking, the electric motors that power the wheels have their electric circuits reversed and become generators, which both generates electricity to feed back into the power network and also gives a braking effect due to the kinetic energy consumed in the generation process.

The electricity that is fed back into the system can be used to power other trains or to run station and lineside equipment, reducing the amount of ‘fresh’ energy the train company needs to buy. This, in turn, saves carbon as the electricity saved doesn’t have to be generated by coal-fired or other fossil-fuel power stations.

In their short life to date – the first Class 717 entered service in March 2019 and the fleet was complete by September 2019 – Great Northern’s new trains have already generated 17 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. With the average British home consuming 3,700 kWh a year, that would power 4,600 homes.

Catherine West MP and Tom Moran with a Class 717 train at Bowes Park station.

Catherine West MP (Labour MP Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) visited Bowes Park station along with Great Northern managing director Tom Moran on Clean Air Day (Thursday 8 October) to hear how the new fleet is reducing emissions and energy consumption.

Tom Moran, Great Northern.

Tom Moran explained: “Our new trains have transformed our passengers’ journeys by replacing their cramped, outdated 42-year-old trains with fully-accessible, spacious, modern air-conditioned units with the latest in passenger information, on-board Wi-Fi and power points at every pair of seats.

“Hidden away, underneath the carriages, electric motors help the trains brake, feeding the energy back into the network for use by other trains. That technology has already generated 17 million kWh – enough to power the homes of Welwyn and Hatfield Borough for more than a month, potentially saving more than 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

“With all our managed stations now using energy generated from a clean, renewable source, passengers can travel safe in the knowledge they are doing their bit for the planet.”

Catherine West MP.

Catherine West MP commented: “These new trains Great Northern has brought in have made a huge difference for commuters. They are modern, spacious and air-conditioned but, best of all, they are much better for the environment.

“I am very pleased to learn how much energy they generate and how many tonnes of carbon dioxide that could be saving.”

Electric trains are considered to be the most sustainable form of public transport and those with regenerative braking have even better ‘green credentials’.

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