Go-Ahead plots journey to become carbon neutral by 2045

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Go-Ahead has set its timetable for withdrawal of diesel buses and for an all-electric rail fleet as the group says it will cut emissions 75% by 2035 and be net zero by 2045

The Go-Ahead Group has set out a strategy for carbon reduction, aiming to achieve a 75% cut in emissions by 2035, and to become a fully carbon neutral company by 2045.

The Group believes its targets are the most ambitious in the industry and will be achieved through a combination of investment in zero-carbon technology, a crackdown on waste and a significant increase in reuse and recycling of materials.

Submitted to the Science Based Targets Initiative for ratification, the timetable is in keeping with an overall mission set under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050. Changes to Go-Ahead’s business will be accompanied by initiatives to encourage active travel, and the company has called on the Government to encourage a shift from car use to walking, cycling and public transport.

Central to Go-Ahead’s strategy will be the shift from diesel power to zero-carbon modes of transport – including electric and hydrogen power. Key points in its plan include:

  • Converting its entire fleet of 5,000 buses in the UK to zero-emission vehicles by 2035;
  • A decarbonised rail fleet by 2035;
  • Improvements to air quality by 2025, achieved through a 17% drop in carbon monoxide emissions, a 49% cut in hydrocarbons, a 63% fall in nitrogen oxides and a 55% cut in particulate matter from vehicles;
  • A 25% reduction in water use by 2025 through a significant reduction in leakage, together with responsible management;
  • A significant improvement in energy efficiency at all Go-Ahead premises by 2035, and;
  • Reduction of overall waste volumes, and recycling 60% of waste by 2025.

Since 2016, Go-Ahead says it has already achieved a 22% reduction in emissions in spite of expansion of the business. Go-Ahead is ranked ‘A-minus’ by the Carbon Disclosure Project – the highest of any UK transport operator.

David Brown, Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive, said: “Climate change is the number one challenge facing society and in order to address it, we must make radical changes to the way we travel. If we’re serious about protecting the health of our planet, then businesses such as Go-Ahead must show leadership. Our climate change plan is ambitious but deliverable, and is consistent with international goals of limiting any increase in global temperature to 1.5°C. We will play our part by decarbonising our business and by investing in environmentally sustainable technology. We hope our commitment will be matched by a broader shift in public policy on transport by encouraging people to walk or cycle where possible, use buses and trains as an alternative but only use a car if absolutely necessary.”

Go-Ahead says it is committed to investing in ‘pioneering technology’ with environmental objectives. The Group placed in service Britain’s first air filtering buses, which remove particulate pollution from the air as they travel the streets of Southampton. It has also introduced buses in Brighton with geofencing technology to switch to zero-carbon mode when they enter the city centre, and it is trialling solar panels on buses in Britain and Singapore.

The company also anticipates implementation of ‘bus to grid’ energy systems at Northumberland Park depot in north London this summer. This project, in partnership with SSE Enterprise, BYD, Leeds University and UK Power Networks, will turn the bus depot into a ‘virtual power station,’ with electric batteries from buses able to feed energy back into the grid at times of high demand. An initial trial will use the batteries of 28 double-decker buses, capable of returning over a megawatt of energy to the grid.

Flora McIlroy reaching for an electric bus charger at Go-Ahead London’s Northumberland Park garage. GO-AHEAD