Go-Ahead takes the greener route
As a leading public transport company Go-Ahead has a big carbon footprint. But the firm is taking positive steps to reduce it.
For Go-Ahead, one of the UK’s biggest public transport companies, carbon
reduction is a commercial imperative. With a substantial presence in
London’s rail and bus markets, as well as operations in North-east England,
the West Midlands, and the South of England, the company carries almost a
billion passengers a year.
And the amount of money the business makes each year is roughly
equivalent to the amount of money it spends on energy, “so anything we can
save on our energy goes direct to the bottom line,” says Chris Burchell,
managing director of the Group’s Southern rail franchise.
Keen to place corporate social responsibility at the heart of the
business, Burchell believes Go-Ahead has a “responsibility as a public
transport operator to run our services in a sustainable and environmentally
“This means making reductions in our own carbon emissions a priority,
in addition to delivering high quality train and bus services that provide
an attractive alternative to car travel.”
With plenty of offices, stations, garages and depots to maintain, Go-
Ahead has a big carbon footprint. But it’s not as big as it used to be. In
a bid to see how the company could further boost its carbon reduction
activity, in 2007 Go-Ahead’s group environment and energy boss, Chris
Grinsted approached the Carbon Trust for help.
“It enabled us to establish a clear framework in which we could
organize ourselves group-wide,” he says.
“Now, senior management has a responsibility for carbon reduction
targets and carbon is a boardroom topic of discussion.
“At a lower level, we have instigated company and group-wide forums
looking at how to share best practice. This may not be as exciting but
without it, our subsequent successes wouldn’t have happened. Working with
the organisation gave us the structure and impetus to ramp up our activity
and momentum to keep it on track.”
The project also helped him better understand which projects were
eligible for Enhanced Capital Allowances, making it easier for Go-Ahead to
prioritise. Grinstead then went on to look across the Group to identify
opportunities where common savings could be made through a single,
In 2008, Southern and Southeastern – both part of the Group –
introduced regenerative braking on the ‘third rail’ system. This system
harnesses the energy produced during braking, transferring it back into the
rail system, allowing other trains to use it.
The result is a saving of about 15% of consumption on Southern’s
largest fleet of trains – and a reduction in carbon emissions of around
11,000 tonnes a year.
Through 2009/10 the company replaced lighting at 45 of the biggest
sites – train maintenance and bus depots – with intelligent, energy
efficient, high-bay lighting systems. The system is now being trialled as
platform lighting and could be rolled out to many of the company’s 500
“In the first year we managed to save around 17% of our site energy,”
“In the second year, rolling out more energy efficiency measures we
saved, as an average, another 10%. We expect to save another 25% over the
next five years. We have also seen reductions in maintenance and re-lamping
Smart metering has also been installed on many of Go-Ahead’s systems so
managers can see exactly what they are contributing and how much they are
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