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Disappointment as Chiltern Railways scraps hybrid train plans

(James Manning/PA) (PA Archive)
(James Manning/PA) (PA Archive)

Chiltern Railways has quietly scrapped its plans to introduce hybrid trains from services in London after reports of “unacceptably poor” air quality in the area surrounding its Marylebone terminus, the Standard can reveal.

The Arriva-owned operator last year introduced trial rolling stock which used batteries in combination with a diesel engine in a bid to reduce emissions in city centres. But it has since abandoned the project with the train no longer in service at present. The firm said increased costs meant the technology was no longer viable.

Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who had previously written to the Government citing health concerns over pollution caused by Chiltern’s diesel fleet, told the Standard she was “very disappointed” by the move.

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“We want the line to be completely electrified and we believe it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure these lines are electrified,” she said.

“If we’re going to meet our climate targets we have to see the reduction in diesel emissions.”

Marylebone is the last terminus in London only used by diesel trains which contribute to high levels of sooty particulates and toxic NO2 fumes in an already notoriously badly polluted area close to the capital’s inner ring road.

Westminster council estimates that trains account for 14 per cent of N02 emissions and four per cent of particulates in the area around the station, compared with two per cent of N02 and one per cent of particulates across the borough as a whole.

Chiltern said: “While an increase in the cost of this technology since the project began has meant that it will not roll out to the wider fleet, we’d like to commend the skill and dedication of colleagues throughout this innovative trial.

"We will all continue to collaborate on innovations to help Chiltern Railways make their journeys easier, greener and better for customers, and in turn, ensuring the industry meets the UK’s net zero targets."

In July, Chiltern’s Class 68 locomotives powered by vegetable oil began running in and out of Marylebone.

The fuel is a direct replacement for diesel – meaning there is no need to adapt the internal engines of the locomotives that Chiltern uses to pull the train carriages on its long-distance services between Marylebone and Stourbridge Junction via Birmingham.