Over the last few weeks, rail has, like so many industries, been saturated by the COP26 narrative. Much can be said about whether the outcome is to be desired, but one thing that struck me is the missed opportunity for rail.

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Yes, lots of noise was made surrounding battery-electric and hydrogen-powered trains (although it turns out that the hydrogen aspect wasn’t actually on display), but I think that with such close attention being paid, it was a perfect opportunity to shout the benefits of rail as a less carbon-intensive future of transport from the rooftops.

But instead, COP26 was set against a backdrop where the UK Government is unashamedly encouraging domestic air travel with an air passenger duty cut, whilst at the same time hosting a summit on climate change. COP26 was set against a backdrop where the UK Government once again failed to deliver the long-promised, dubiously named ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’. COP26 was set against the backdrop of rumours that HS2 was being scaled back, again.

New and shiny tech is all well and good, but there’s no point to it if you don’t actually use it properly. As the ever-knowledgable Gareth Dennis succinctly put it on Twitter: “stop innovating, start implementing.” I do agree. We already have the tech, we just need the political will to actually use it.

Political will seems to be the key ingredient in everything. In Europe, the German Green Party are hoping to bring a night train network to life, as a viable alternative to aviation. But how likely is it to actually happen? We dive into the matter in our cover story, learning about the obstacles that will need to be overcome if it is to succeed.

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We also profile the world’s first new electric battery freight locomotive, speaking to the company behind it to find out why the future of freight is electric. As well as all of this, we find out how Brighton station is drastically cutting down on its waste, and reducing its environmental impact, by using a new recycling operation.

For this, and more, read on. You can follow us @FutureRail_Mag too.

Peter Nilson, editor

In this issue

Trans-European night train network: a dream or reality?

The German Green Party has unveiled plans for a trans-European night railway network, to connect the continent and diminish the environmental impact of planes. Frances Marcellin investigates whether a climate-friendly and affordable railway network can be achieved as an alternative to air travel by the end of the decade.

180 years of history: one of the world’s oldest railway tunnels gets a facelift

Constructed between 1838 and 1841 as part of the Manchester and Leeds railway, one of the world’s oldest railway tunnels has undergone a facelift to make the tunnel more reliable for passengers this coming autumn. Frankie Youd profiles the tunnel’s history.

The future of freight is battery and it’s painted cherry red

Unveiled in September, the world’s first battery-electric freight train was showcased at an event held in Pittsburgh. Developed by Wabtec, a Pittsburgh-based rail freight company, the new locomotive aims to dramatically reduce carbon emissions produced by rail transport to further rail’s decarbonisation journey. Frankie Youd speaks to Wabtec to find out more.

A green solution for Brighton station: ramping up recycling

Brighton station has been busy doing its part for the environment by installing a new mobile segregation unit that processes all waste collected from the station and trains. Frankie Youd profiles the new operation.

Full steam ahead for young CEO

For most 15-year-olds the very idea of becoming a CEO is foreign, if not foreign then most certainly an aspirational one that might, possibly, become reality in the years ahead. But for Harry Burr there was no time to wait: things needed doing and he was the one to do them. Burr, the chief executive of Sustainable Transport Midlands, talks to Andy Tunnicliffe.

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