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With the drive for future sustainability and reducing harmful emissions, eco-friendly transport is hitting the headlines.

But what is it, and how is Northern making a difference? 

What is sustainable transport?

Sustainable transport can be best described as any public or private transport that doesn’t rely on natural resources to power it, such as walking or cycling. The aim is to minimise the negative impact on the world around us. Harmful greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide (CO2), contribute to atmospheric pollution, increasing global warming. According to the European Environment Agency, transport is responsible for about a quarter of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions, and causes air and noise pollution. 

In 2020, road transport was the main source of nitrogen oxides, responsible for 37% of emissions. Road vehicles - cars, lorries and buses, account for nearly 75% of the greenhouse gas emissions from transport. With a large number of cars only carrying one or two passengers, an individual’s personal carbon footprint increases proportionally. Currently, the average UK person's emissions are 10 tonnes of CO2 annually - about twice the global average. 

What are the main advantages of sustainable transport?

Sustainable transportation systems allow people to travel without the negative environmental impact of non-green travel. 

Each passenger in a medium-sized petrol car has a carbon footprint of 192 grams for every kilometre travelled. However, taking the train reduces a passenger's emissions to only 41 grams per kilometre.

There are other environmental benefits to train travel, too. By cutting down on road congestion, vehicles can make steady progress, further reducing harmful emissions and enabling goods to be transported more effectively. With fewer vehicles using roads, the necessity to build more decreases, helping to preserve the natural environment and reducing water run-off, a significant contributor to water pollution and flooding. 

How is Northern making a difference?

The Department for Transport is determined to promote sustainable travel, putting aside 2 billion pounds to make the UK’s rail system greener.

Northern is dedicated to delivering an eco-friendly rail service, winning awards for its contribution to sustainable transport. Working hard to produce a seamless door-to-door experience, we’re promoting an integrated transport system with improved cycle facilities and linked train and bus timetables. 

Focusing on a year-on-year reduction in our carbon emissions, we regularly audit our activities and infrastructure for environmental impact and actively seek alternative solutions for the continuation of improved sustainability.

Have you tried our Cost, Time & Carbon Footprint Calculator? We have created this tool using a combination of industry data alongside Northern's own environmental data sources. You can find out more about the data sources here

In our mission to contribute to sustainable travel, we have put together Green Guides for some of our popular destinations. If you're planning a day out in one of these destinations, we've got tips for enjoying it sustainably, including travelling there by train. You can find our Green Guides below. 

Green Guides


A guide to making your next trip to Manchester more sustainable!


Looking for a sustainable trip to Leeds? This guide will help!


Make your next trip to Newcastle sustainable with this guide!

You can find out more about the Northern Environment team's other initiatives here.

This includes information on model shifting, pollution prevention, carbon reduction and biodiversity. We want to be the train operating company making the most positive contribution to environmental sustainability.

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