Long side view of Colas class 56 in orange and yellow livery

Colas Rail UK successfully concludes HVO fuel trial in revenue service

In a significant stride towards sustainable rail operations, Colas Rail has completed a successful trial of employing Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an alternative to diesel fuel in its locomotive 56051. The engineering support, logistics, and heavy haul specialist operator has been running the example of the class on sustainable fuel, as an alternative to diesel, in regular, revenue-earning service. The trial, which ran on a Chirk to Baglan route, showcased promising results regarding reduced carbon emissions and set an encouraging precedent for greener rail freight operations.

The trial saw locomotive 56051, which dates from the late 1980s, reliably traversed a route between Chirk in north Wales to Baglan in the south of the Principality. By opting for HVO fuel, Colas Rail undertook a proactive approach to reaching net-zero ambitions mandated by the UK government. Preliminary estimates suggest that the trial has resulted in a commendable reduction of approximately 20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Industry acceptance

Colas Rail’s endeavour is not an isolated one within the UK rail freight industry. Other operators within the sector have also embarked on trials of HVO fuel, including DB Cargo Nederland and DB Cargo UK. underlining a collective ambition to identify and adopt cleaner energy solutions. These trials mirror the broader transition towards more sustainable practices across various industries, addressing environmental concerns while maintaining operational efficiency.

"I tank biofuel" on a DB cargo train
It’s not just Colas and not just the UK that’s experimenting with alternative and sustainable fuels

The Chirk to Baglan route, where the HVO trial took place, is a vital connection in the rail network. Stretching approximately 130 miles, the route links industrial interests in Chirk – a source of processed wood products terminal, and other manufacturing interests around neighbouring Wrexham, to the Baglan Bay terminal in South Wales, adjacent to the gas-fired power station there. The whole image of alternative fuels has been enhanced by trials here in the UK and in mainland Europe, where extensive experiments have been underway for some time. Operators have reported a high degree of success in freight and passenger operations.

Progress and environment

Colas Rail has been best known for its commitment to engineering support around the UK. The company is also active in heavy haul bulk cargo transport throughout the UK, with operations as far north as Fort William and Aberdeen in Scotland. The company has been the hauler for timber traffic trials in the west of Wales and handles traffic on the south coast of England. It is regarded for its corporate commitment to innovation and sustainability. That robust presence in the UK rail freight market has afforded the company avenues to enhance operational efficiency while reducing its environmental impact. The successful HVO trial is a source of celebration within the corporation.

The continued success of HVO fuel is a green signal for the rail freight industry. In the face of a large diesel-powered fleet in the sector, much of it younger than 56061, and the lack of widespread electrification, HVO, and other initiatives give the sector confidence for an economically prosperous future. The Colas Rail efforts can pave the way for a more environmentally responsible future. The completion of the HVO trial not only propels the industry towards greener practices but also signals a wider commitment to balancing progress with environmental awareness.

Autor/a Simon Walton

Fuente: RailFreight.com