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South West Trains invests £2.2m in regenerative braking system to drive greener trains

  • More than 200 trains to be fitted with new energy saving system
  • Energy saved could power more than 3,500 UK homes for a year
  • Technology will cut emissions at UK’s biggest commuter network
  • Initiative part of Stagecoach Group five-year carbon reduction plan

South West Trains, the UK’s biggest commuter rail franchise, is investing £2.2 million in a major regenerative braking project to save energy and make its trains greener.

More than 200 trains on the South West Trains network, which covers south-west England running out of London Waterloo, will be fitted with the new technology.

Energy produced by a standard train braking is currently lost, but the regenerative braking system returns electricity to the third rail system, allowing trains in close proximity to draw on the electrical supply.

The initiative when fully implemented is conservatively expected to save 15 million kWh of electricity annually, enough to power more than 3,500 UK homes for an entire year.

South West Trains carries around 190 million passengers a year on a network covering 607 route miles. The project when completed is expected to reduce annual fleet CO2e emissions at South West Trains by around 8,000 tonnes, based on 5% of the energy from braking being picked up by another train.

The first two trains, part of the Class 458 fleet, are now starting to test the technology in passenger service on the London Waterloo-Guildford and London Waterloo-Reading routes.

The whole fleet of 30 Class 458 trains is expected to be fitted with the new regenerative braking software by the summer 2011. The system will then be rolled out to South West Trains’ fleet of 172 state-of-the-art Desiro trains.

South West Trains Engineering Director Christian Roth said: “The roll-out of the regenerative braking system will deliver a significant step-forward in the environmental performance of our trains. Trains are already one of the most environmentally-friendly forms of transport and this new investment will provide our passengers with an even greener and smarter way to travel.

“We estimate that our energy consumption on the Suburban network, where the first trials are taking place, will be reduced by up to 8%. As well as the obvious cost-saving benefits, we are also ensuring that energy previously lost is being put to good use by recycling it and helping to power other trains.”

The regenerative braking project, which is being carried out in partnership with Network Rail and rolling stock providers Alstom and Siemens, is part of a major £11 million investment across Stagecoach Group as part of its new sustainability strategy.

Stagecoach Group is aiming to reduce further the carbon emissions from its bus and rail operations in the UK and North America as part of a five-year programme, from 2009-10 to 2013-14. The Group is targeting an overall reduction of 8% in buildings CO2e emissions and a cut of 3% in annual fleet transport CO2e emissions.

It follows a reduction in the carbon intensity of its UK businesses of 5.7% in the three years to 30 April 2009. It is estimated the five-year plan will save a total of nearly 150,000 tonnes of CO2e, with the Group’s annual emissions reduced by around 40,000 tonnes CO2e by April 2014.

Stagecoach’s other carbon reduction initiatives will include:

  • introduction of eco-driving techniques across 14,000 bus drivers in the UK
  • driver training measures and energy wardens at East Midlands Trains
  • fleet training and awareness programme for drivers, managers and staff at Manchester Metrolink and Sheffield Supertram
  • focus on reducing bus idling at bus and coach operations in the United States
  • roll-out of the Envirox™ fuel additive at the Group’s Canadian bus operations. The additive is already in use across Stagecoach’s bus fleet in the UK, resulting in improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
  • continuing to source a significant proportion of its electricity requirement from renewables, including electricity generated from small-scale hydro, on-shore wind and biomass.
  • investment in lighting and domestic hot water improvements, performance analysis, and reduction of heat loss through depot doors
  • new procurement policies and buildings manuals
  • communication plans to raise awareness and encourage greener workplace practices

Earlier this year, Stagecoach Group was awarded the prestigious Carbon Trust Standard after taking action on climate change by measuring and reducing its carbon emissions. Stagecoach is the first Scottish-based transport group - and one of only two listed UK public transport operators - to have achieved the stretching carbon reduction benchmark. It covers all of the Group’s bus and rail operations in the UK.



  • South West Trains is the UK's biggest commuter rail network, running nearly 1700 train services a day in the south-west of England out of London Waterloo and carrying around 190 million passengers a year.
  • South West Trains has a total of 334 trains in its fleet. The regenerative braking system is being fitted to all of the company’s modern trains - the Class 458s and the Desiros - which covers a total of 202 trains or 60% of the fleet. South West Trains has 41 diesel trains, which are not powered by electric traction. The remaining trains in the fleet, the Class 455s, were designed around 35 years ago and are not compatible with regenerative braking systems in their current form without expensive adaptation.
  • The energy saving of 15m kWh is based on 5% of the energy from braking being saved and used by other trains.
  • According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change the average (mean) annual domestic electricity consumption is 4,198 kWh per household in the UK. On that basis, the energy saving from a 5% regeneration return would power more than 3,500 homes for a year. Source: Department for Energy and Climate Change, Energy Trends, March 2010.
  • Stagecoach Group is a leading international public transport group, with extensive operations in the UK, United States and Canada. The company employs 30,000 people, and operates bus, coach, rail, and tram services.
  • Stagecoach is one of UK’s biggest bus and coach operators, running around 7,000 vehicles from south-west England to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and carrying around 2 million passengers every day.
  • Stagecoach is a major UK rail operator, running the South West Trains, Island Line and East Midlands Trains networks. It has a 49% shareholding in Virgin Rail Group, which operates the West Coast inter-city rail franchise.
  • Stagecoach is also Britain's biggest tram operator, running networks in both Sheffield and Manchester.
  • For further information on Stagecoach's sustainability strategy and measures the Group is undertaking to tackle climate change, visit
  • A copy of Stagecoach Group’s sustainability strategy is available online.
  • CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) is a universal unit of measurement under the GHG Protocol. It is used to indicate the global warming potential of each of the six greenhouse gases expressed as one unit of carbon dioxide
  • Carbon intensity is a measure of how much fossil fuel is required to produce a certain amount of economic output. The carbon intensity reduction referred to above is calculated by dividing carbon emissions by company turnover (£).