Electric cars, hybrid automobiles, hydrogen fuel cells: this is the kind of technology that seems to be most commonly associated with the overall change towards green transportation in popular media. However, where personal green vehicles are indeed an important part of the green transportation evolution, the benefits of green mass transit cannot be discounted. High speed rail transportation in particular has been gaining some attention in Europe over the last two weeks after an announcement in France that the Channel Tunnel could soon be going green.
The announcement that the Channel Tunnel high speed rail cars might be going green came from Eurostar, the company that is responsible for virtually all passenger rail traffic through the Channel Tunnel and for lines connecting England, France, and Belgium. Eurostar has decided to invest over one billion dollars for the acquisition of ten new green train and for the refurbishment of their entire existing fleet in order to create a fleet that operates with lowered carbon emissions and with greener systems as a whole. Eurostar is also doing this as a means of providing a low carbon alternative to flights connecting the countries Eurostar rails already service.
The high speed rail contract that Eurostar has drafted has been handed over to German based engineering company Siemens AG in order to acquire ten of the company’s e3202 models. The Siemens e3202 is a greener version of one of Siemens’ other models, the Valero, which holds the title of the fastest high speed train in the world. The e3202 promises to be far more energy efficient than the Valero overall and to release three times less carbon emissions than the average flight between destinations that the train could also service. The new e3202 will be able to carry approximately 900 passengers at a top speed of 200 miles per hour between all of Eurostar’s major lines. Considering the fact that Eurostar serviced over 9.2 million passengers last year alone, the boost in passengercapacity could push passangers served to an all time high.
Though Eurostar has planned to begin using the new high speed rail fleet in 2014, France has decided to try and block the move citing safety concerns. According to the French transportation minister Dominique Bussereau, the new e3202 train cars do not meet certain safety standards and that they had informed Eurostar that only Alstom trains, which are currently used on the Eurostar lines, could be used on French rails. Some critics of France’s announcement say that it may be a result of Eurostar choosing the German based Siemens over the French based Alstom for the new contract, taking away a considerable amount of revenue. Siemens has responded that they believe no safety regulations have been violated and that they intend to proceed on schedule.
Assuming France’s announcement does not throw any major delays into the process, Eurostar could be running some of the greenest high speed rail lines by 2014. Considering how popular the lines already are, and how much more popular they can become, the switch could have a fairly large impact on the transportation emissions for the whole of Europe.
Article by Richard Cooke, appearing courtesy Justmeans.